Victoria College’s Cat’s Eye Lounge served as an intimate backdrop for Victoria College Drama Society’s (VCDS) God of Carnage. Written by the award-winning French playwright Yasmina Reza in 2006, director Ben Murchison and the VCDS bring to life this 70-minute comedy that dramatizes familial strife.
Haphazardly brought into each other’s orbit, the Novak and the Raleigh families are forced into confrontation following an incident in which their 11 year-old sons Henry Novak (played by Katie Pereira) and Benjamin Raleigh get into an altercation, resulting in Henry losing his front teeth. Rather than consulting lawyers, the families seek to handle the matter ‘like adults.’ The play focuses on the four parents, Veronica and Michael Novak (Samantha Finkelstein and Matthew Fonte) and Alan and Annette Raleigh (Ryan Falconer and Rachel Hart), and their attempts to maintain. “Superficially,” the director writes in the brochure, “the play is about…resolv[ing] the conflict between their two children; underneath, it is a complex examination of adult life.”
A “complex examination of adult life” is a bit of an overstatement. Rather, stereotypical biographies characterize these families: Veronica is an uptight philanthropist and helicopter mom married to Michael, an entrepreneur who sells hardware. Alan is a lawyer constantly on the clock — too busy to care about anything going on around him — while his trophy wife, Annette, tries to compensate for his physical and emotional absence. The constant bickering over moral compasses and parenting styles climax into a sensationalized ‘coming undone.’
Regardless of this hackneyed narrative arc, the play’s interactive component, which engaged the audience from start to finish, was outstanding. While I stood in line waiting to get inside the theatre, Camille Novak (Katie Cohen) frantically stormed about the stage in search of an undisclosed object. The play hadn’t begun, and it was hard to tell what was going on, but that didn’t matter, as it succeeded in getting our attention.
While fumbling around to find our seats, we were greeted by a freeze-frame of the cast sitting still in place, staring off into the distance. The stillness was punctuated by Henry and Camile’s boisterous scurrying and teasing each other before vanishing, marking the beginning of the play. Adding to the show’s interactivity was an invitation to explore the immaculate arrangement of the Novak’s apartment, which many did before the play began.
Although, at times, the acting felt exaggerated, the actors ultimately did a remarkable job, and the roaring laughs of the crowd were a testament to their success. Ultimately, God of Carnage is an entertaining exploration of individuals who, in an attempt to act their age, find themselves unreasonably childlike, which is the very reason they met in the first place.