A boy hitting another with a stick becomes the pretext for a wide-ranging discussion of human nature, civilization and the lack thereof in “God of Carnage,” Carpenter Square Theatre's 2012-13 season opener.
Yasmina Reza's play is billed as a comedy, but it comes across more as a disturbing commentary on the tendency of communications to deteriorate, as its title might suggest. Translated by Christopher Hampton, the French author's script, also described as a “comedy of manners without good manners,” received a rousing performance.
Action takes place in the Brooklyn, N.Y., home of Veronica and Michael Novak, whose 11-year-old son, Henry, has had two teeth damaged in an attack by a boy his age in the park “armed with a stick.”
Lilli Bassett and Mike Waugh turned in nicely nuanced but emotionally escalating performances as this seemingly liberal couple, who have invited the parents of the other boy over to discuss the situation.
In early going, Waugh succeeded in communicating the underlying frustrations and tensions of the apparently affable and mild-mannered husband, a seemingly perfect host, while it lasted. By the end of the evening, Waugh was convincingly demented, rediscovering his youthful joy as a gang member and using fine rum to drown his guilt over what he did to his daughter's pet hamster.
But Bassett had some even better moments, both blackly humorous and dramatic, as Veronica, an author and expert on Africa, whose interest is made manifest in her home's tasteful African art objects.
Bassett conveyed Veronica's many contradictions, whether she was coping with vomit on art books, bonding with the mother of her son's attacker, swigging booze from a bottle or standing up to male chauvinism.