In Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” none of the four main characters is able to secure the moral high ground for too long, and that’s just fine with Brenny Rabine.
“I love that these characters each behave in shocking ways and that none of them can really walk away with all of his or her dignity,” said Rabine, who plays Annette in the regional premiere of Reza’s 2009 Tony Award winner for Best Play.
“I love the shifting alliances throughout the story. It’s a comedy of manners, and it’s very funny. It’s a very physical and intense 90 minutes or so of theater.”
“God of Carnage” will be in previews at Capital Repertory Theatre from Friday night through Sunday and will officially open Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. and run until May 27. Capital Rep Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill is directing.
“This play is an absolute hoot,” said Mancinelli-Cahill. “It really is like being on a roller coaster. The calm parts are only building steam to get you to the top of the next vertical drop. The show is very physically demanding on the cast, who gets a real aerobic workout.”
“God of Carnage”
WHERE: Capital Repertory theatre, 111 North Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through May 27
HOW MUCH: $50-$16
MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org
The story is about two married couples who meet after their sons have been involved in a playground altercation.
“My son is the one who struck the other boy with a stick,” said Rabine. “The two couples get together to talk about what happened and it doesn’t go well. They try to be cordial and to figure out what should be done, but they can’t agree on anything. To a certain extent, they themselves end up going to the playground.”
Rabine, a Saratoga Springs native, is joined in the cast by New York City actors Brigitte Viellieu-Davis as Veronica, Ken Krugman as her husband, Michael, and Michael McKenzie as Alan, Annette’s husband. The two boys who brought together the four adults are discussed but never seen on stage.
For Gazette theater writer Carol King's review of this show, click here.
“It’s a real ensemble, and the four of us are on the stage nearly the entire time,” said Rabine. “None of us have worked together before, but as a cast I can tell you we’re crazy about each other. It’s a lovely feeling in rehearsal. It kind of gives us the gusto to hurl ourselves into the role. It’s so much fun.”
The Broadway version was a real vehicle for its four well-known actors. Marcia Gay Harden won a Tony for her portrayal of Veronica, while Jeff Daniels as Alan, Hope Davis as Annette and James Gandolfini as Michael all earned Tony nominations.
Reza is a French playwright who also won a Tony Award for Best Play in 1998 with “Art.”
Thread of civility
“Yasmina Reza is masterful at delivering comedy that cuts through the slim thread of civility that holds polite society together,” said Mancinelli-Cahill. “It’s a fun ride to witness four adults exhibiting far worse behavior than their children.”
Rabine has not seen a previous production of the play but was quickly drawn into the action by the direction of Mancinelli-Cahill.
“Maggie’s like the fifth, unseen character in the room,” said Rabine. “She has a vision of how this story should be told and it’s a lot of fun. My character is the mouse that roared. She’s trying very hard to avoid conflict, but it makes her very nervous and uncomfortable. So she’s a little high-strung and out of her element. We’re the couple with a little more financial status in the room, but we definitely like to avoid conflict, and Maggie’s great at getting all that out of us.”
McKenzie and Viellieu-Davis have both played at Capital Rep before, McKenzie as the snobbish Englishman, Nicholas Pym, in “The Sisters Rosensweig” earlier this season and Viellieu-Davis as the non-stop talking neighbor Dotty in the 2008 production of “The Sweepers.” Krugman, meanwhile, who has enjoyed gigs with the national touring productions of “Jersey Boys” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” is making his Capital Rep debut.
Rabine has developed a reputation as one of the Capital Region’s finest comedic actors with her work in Capital Rep productions like “Boston Marriage” and “A Christmas Story.” She has also done plenty of work with the improvisational comedy troupe Mop and Bucket Company. In March 2010, however, she demonstrated that she is also a serious dramatic actress with her portrayal of the narrator in Capital Rep’s production of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Rabine played the adult Jean-Louise Finch, also known as Scout.
“It was very much like Emily in ‘Our Town,’ because I was going back examining my life and seeing things I wasn’t aware of earlier,” said Rabine, who was also directed by Mancinelli-Cahill in “Mockingbird.”
“It was a phenomenal experience. Instead of just passively filling in bits and pieces to the audience as the narrator, Maggie made me a very involved character. As Jean-Louise, I also went on a journey during that play.”
Like so many others who watched the 1962 movie version of “To Kill A Mockingbird” with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Rabine connected to the story’s father figure. Peck’s role won him an Oscar and in 2003 earned for Atticus the distinction of being the No. 1 movie hero of all time, according to the American Film Institute.
“A few years earlier I lost my dad to cancer, so getting to watch Atticus gave me the fantasy of having my dad back,” she said. “It’s such a powerful story, and because Maggie’s vision for the play was to really use the narrator, for me it was very rewarding personally.”
Rabine will continue her busy schedule in June with another comedy at the Adirondack Theatre Festival, A.R. Gurney’s “Black Tie.”
“I’ve been very lucky over the last few years because I’ve been getting a lot of theater work,” said Rabine, who has also performed at Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs and the Lake George Dinner Theatre. “I haven’t had the time to do a lot of improv with Mop and Bucket, but I try to support them whenever I can.”
Rabine has also written two plays, although not recently. In 2000 she wrote and directed “Santa’s List,” and in 2002 she wrote, directed and starred in a one-woman show, “Catching Babies.” Both were produced by Home Made Theater.
“My theater work has kept me away from writing,” she said. “But just recently I started playing around with the idea of developing a blog. I’m not going live yet, but it should be soon and I’m looking forward to expressing myself that way.”