The set foreshadows the coming fracas. There’s a fault line down the middle where this living room seems sliced in two. And something’s out of whack. The halves do not align. Like two stressed tectonic plates beneath the surface predicting a quake any second, Matthew J. Keenan’s astute set design sets us on edge.
That’s just one instance of shrewd staging in Keegan Theatre’s smartly entertaining production of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, a riotous free-for-all among four grownups.
If there’s a Richter scale for hilarity, this show’s aghast guffaws would surely register. But the play also contains some intriguing serious bits: evolutionary/anthropological explanations for all the mayhem. Reza plants speculation after hypothesis about how humans’ savage instincts are never completely constrained by civilization, so they erupt like volcanic lava—respectable social graces be damned.
If you’ve never seen God of Carnage, you should, it’s a modern comedy classic, and Keegan offers a superb chance to enjoy it. If you have seen the play and know the story, watch closely how Serotsky conducts who bickers and brawls with whom—couple versus couple, spouse versus spouse, women versus men, men versus women, Annette versus Veronica, Michael versus Alan… The conflict scenarios are ever-shifting and elide into one another. But what comes through loud and clear is that the antecedent of this anxious comedy is not human evolution in the ancient past. This is a completely contemporary comic parable about why two young apples have fallen not far from two trees.