Theater review: ‘God of Carnage’ an unpleasant way to kill an evening

Thursday, May 3, 2012
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Michael McKenzie as Alan, left, and Ken Krugman as Michael toast to each other while their wives, Brenny Rabine as Annete and Brigitte Viellieu-Davis as Veronica, look on during a scene from “God of Carnage” at Capital  Repertory Theatre. (Photo: Joe Schuyler)
Michael McKenzie as Alan, left, and Ken Krugman as Michael toast to each other while their wives, Brenny Rabine as Annete and Brigitte Viellieu-Davis as Veronica, look on during a scene from “God of Carnage” at Capital Repertory Theatre. (Photo: Joe Schuyler)

I’ll be blunt. If you get a kick out of people throwing up on stage and the cheap humor that ensues, you might enjoy “God of Carnage,” Capital Repertory Theatre’s latest production — but I seriously doubt it.

Any knowledgeable play-goer is bound to be offended by this production, which is labeled a comedy. At the press opening on Tuesday night there were a few forced laughs from the audience, but that’s OK because the “humor” is also forced — and forced and forced. I checked my watch a couple of times during the show and could not believe 90 minutes could crawl by so damned slowly.

To be frank, the production sounded promising. You have four fine actors, each with an excellent lineage, a proven director (Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill), and a story that seemed to say “funny.” Not so.

Two upscale couples get together in swanky Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, to have a civilized conversation about a playground scuffle between their 11-year-old sons. Young Henry Novak has been assaulted with a stick by Benjamin Raleigh, resulting in Henry’s disfigurement (Henry will need a couple of teeth replaced and has a bruised lip).

“God of Carnage”

WHERE: Capital Repertory theatre, 111 North Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: Through May 27

HOW MUCH: $50-$16

MORE INFO: 445-7469,

Also, it seems, his father’s ego has been bruised by the altercation. His father, played by Ken Krugman, was the leader of his own gang as a child — which could explain the chaotic results of the meeting — but it doesn’t. Comedy is supposed to be planned chaos and none of the play’s doings seems “planned.” It all just happens in a dizzying, eclectic sort of way.

Lack of motivation

One might reason that that is how life happens, and I did try — honestly. But that organic silliness that rules us during moments of crisis just doesn’t work on stage. Motivation is key to characterization. On Cap Rep’s stage nobody seemed motivated by anything.

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For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here.

Michael McKenzie plays Benjamin’s father, a lawyer representing a pharmaceutical company that is marketing a drug found to have dangerous side effects. He keeps answering his cell phone to give advice to his client. I kept waiting for some connection to be made between the playground brawl and the plight of the drug company but, alas, that did not happen.

Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, faring best among the four actors, plays Henry’s mother. Her expertise on the art and culture of Africa keeps coming up. In truth, her line about the “soothing power of culture” had the best chance of keeping the play focused, but, again, it was not to be.

Brenny Rabine plays Benjamin’s mother. Remember Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Do you recall how beautifully Albee motivated her on stage nausea? (And, of course, Albee had the good sense to have Honey throw up off stage.) Well, that doesn’t happen in “God of Carnage.” No matter how sensitively Rabine tries, the playwright just doesn’t give her the nuts and bolts to work with. In fact, she turns out to be as vicious as the rest of the characters. And even that sounds promising — if the characters were truly vicious. But they’re not.

Good and bad

And maybe that’s the point. Maybe the Raleighs and the Novaks are just like us — neither altogether good nor bad. That’s sort of what I was expecting in the first place. Unfortunately, the playwright doesn’t prove her point. There’s just too much pseudo-psychology going on and much too much unmotivated chaos.

“God of Carnage?” The only carnage here is that inflicted on the audience.

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May 3, 2012
10:35 a.m.
thomwrite says...

Lest we forget, God of Carnage won for best play in 3 countries and most produced play in America right now. This Tony Award®-winning comedy that the New Yorker magazine called “ninety minutes of sustained mayhem,” offers a close-and-personal glimpse at grown ups behaving badly. We all know them -- and often, sadly, they are ourselves.

Hats off to the ensemble and to Capital Rep for not playing it safe, but including risky, new, material in its season.

The production at Capital Rep is fun and entertaining. This comedy of manners without the manners runs through Sunday, May 27. I suggest that theatre fans see for themselves! For me and the people around me on opening night, it was a hoot!

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