Sunday, March 20, 2011

by Yasmina Reza

"This is the worst day of my life."

Bad people doing bad things, but in a very witty way, was how I described the characters in Aldous Huxley's novel, Point Counter Point in my review in October, 2008. The same description applies to the four characters in Yasmina Reza's play, God of Carnage, that is currently playing at the Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago. More than one hundred years after Oscar Wilde's brilliantly witty comedy we have award-winning (Tony, Olivier, Moliere) comedy with wit, but without the soul. Not since attending Moliere who gave us The Misanthrope have I seen such misanthropic characters on stage. While I was yearning for some wisdom to show itself to reward the pain being endured on the stage -- both Veronica and Annette exclaim the comment quoted above -- there was little on the stage that approached anything other than sheer Bacchanalian chaos.  However, Euripides this is not.

The evening was made bearable by beautiful acting from the ensemble, great direction by Rick Snyder, an efficient set, and a well-constructed play.  The skill with which the ensemble slowly raised their passions and the ensuing chaos I would compare to the gradual and inexorable increase in sound of a Rossini crescendo. That the playwright succeeded in her presentation of comedy with wit and thought is a tribute to Reza, but this is a world that I would want to stay away from. The only thing more violent than the passions on stage last night were the missiles reigning down on an insane North African dictator thousands of miles away. The verbal missiles and bombs on stage made for comedy, but it was a comedy filled with laughter that left a bad taste in my mouth.

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