Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning God of Carnage is a cautionary tale for modern times. Written in French and translated into English by Christopher Hampton, Reza’s razor-sharp black comedy has resonated with audiences from Europe and the Middle East to Australia. Why the widespread appeal? Perhaps it’s a shared fear that beneath the civilized manners of the upper middle class lurk savage instincts than we’d prefer not to acknowledge. With the Keegan Theatre’s new production, directed by Shirley Serotsky, we welcome God of Carnage back to the DC area.
Individually the actors do fine work in their roles. Vishwas delivers a superb performance as Benjamin’s father Alan Raleigh, an amoral corporate lawyer who defends crooked pharmaceutical companies. … Alan’s wife Annette, played by the Keegan’s Artistic Director Susan Marie Rhea, combines icy hauteur and boiling frustration with the utter humiliation that befalls her (and startles us) early in the play. Her wobbly recovery is a marvel to watch. Lolita Marie imbues the high-strung Veronica Novak with sizzling self-righteousness. Her caustic comments egg on the Raleighs and detonate a string of emotional firecrackers that explode throughout the play. And yet, we see flashes of Veronica’s humanity.
Described as a “comedy of manners, without manners” by the Queensland, Australia Theatre Company, Reza’s investigation of human behavior unearths truths we’d prefer to ignore. But once she shines a light on the chaos, we’re forced to consider how, given our complexities, we can set aside our egos and find common ground.