GOD OF CARNAGE at MTC is Tony Award quality.

(L to R) Rachel Harker (Annette Raleigh), Warren David Keith (Alan Raleigh), Stacy Ross (Veronica Novak) and Remi Sandri (Michael Novak), in God of Carnage, now playing at Marin Theatre Company through June 17.

GOD OF CARNAGE. By Yasmina Reza, Translated by Christopher Hampton, directed by Ryan Rilette. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valle. (415) 388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org. May 24 – June 17, 2012 EXTENDED TO JUNE 24

GOD OF CARNAGE at MTC is Tony Award quality.

Marin Theatre Company (MTC) ends its 45th season with a sure-fire winner of Yasima Reza’s extended one act play God of Carnage that will be making the rounds of community and professional theatres for years. The cast of MTC’s stimulating ensemble performance could easily have replaced the brilliant Broadway production that won Tony nominations for best actor for every member of this four character play. That cast included Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini (of The Sopranos fame) Marcia Gay. The play garnered the Tony for Best Play and Gay won for Best Actress.

Yasima Reza made her first big hit with the play Art that is still making the rounds throughout the world and she followed that up with the charming The Inconvenient Man. God of Carnage was translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, and locale has changed from Paris to an affluent Brooklyn neighborhood.

After the 11 year old son of Annette and Alan Raleigh (Rachel Harker and Warren David Keith) has knocked out two of the teeth of the son of Veronica and Michael Novack (Stacy Ross and Remi Sandri), the two couples meet to discuss how the situation should be handled. They meet in the Novack’s living room, replete with African art and artifacts (Set by Nina Ball) to discuss how the situation ought to be resolved.

The play is an actor’s dream since it gives equal weight to each character, who could easily be called “contestants.” All does not go smoothly especially with interruptions from Alan’s constantly ringing cell phone conversations, Veronica’s liberal superior humanitarian attitude, Michael’s dealing with the family “hamster problem” and Annette’s nausea. What begins as an apparent civil meeting inexorably builds to a knock-down drag-out battle with the veneer of civility scattered about like some of the props after all have liberally imbibed in the expensive bottle of rum. This emphasizes the truism “In Vino Veritas.”

The play is a hybrid of comedy, drama and farce requiring a top-notch cast to master the balance. Marin Theatre’s stunning, sometimes hilarious but always believable staging has just the right actors to pull it off and they play off each other fitting together like a complicated Rubik’s Cube but never getting it right.

Stacy Ross’s depiction of the tightly wound Veronica signals the explosion that comes giving her the opportunity to “emote” and engage in actual physical interaction with husband Michael. Remi Sandri’s does great justice to the role of Michael switching from his macho man image to the sniveling villain defending his aversion to hamsters. Rachael Harker plays the quiet subservient mousey wife early in the play and blossoms into a tiger empowered by rum.

Without a word of denigration about the other cast members, Warren David Keith and his intrepid cell phone would win the Tony as the internationally famous lawyer defending a pharmaceutical company from potential litigation. His suave, under played manner is accentuated by his pitch perfect facial, hand and body movements.

Ryan Rilette’s energetic direction gives equal priority to the four volatile characters as their verbal thrusts degenerate into physical action. He certainly understands the dynamics between married couples and the unexpected male bonding versus the female couple makes perfect sense.

The play lasts a perfect 75 minutes and leaves you wanting more of this must see show.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworlinternetmagazine.com