Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Stage

Review: 'God of Carnage' at American Stage is fast, funny and revealing

ST. PETERSBURG — Somewhere in the thorny crevices of the soul, people know their own truths. The best art brings that self-awareness to the surface.

To wit: If you're a mid-to-upper class parent, if you've ever displayed a book about less fortunate civilizations near a vase of tulips, if you've ever offered guests a pastry from a middle region of France, God of Carnage may prove illuminating and/or horrifying.

American Stage's final play of the season is deeply subversive yet uproariously funny. It feels so whip-fast you almost miss the glaring side-eye to the soul firing from Yasmina Reza's script.

Two children have just had a playground fight, and one has lost teeth. Their parents get together to talk about it, and because they are adults who work in fancy fields, they know they can work it out with dignity.

"How many parents become infantile themselves when they're sticking up for their children?" one character muses, certain they can avoid the same low-brow fate.

Sure they can!

The home of Michael and Veronica Novak is furnished with cozy sofas set against cold steel and glass accents. Michael (Brian Shea) runs a wholesale business slinging doorknobs and frying pans. Veronica (Cathy Schenkelberg) is writing a book on Darfur and wears leggings under long dresses. They call each other "Darjeeling," after the tea.

Alan and Annette Raleigh are their visitors. Annette (Katherine Michelle Tanner) works vaguely in "wealth management." Alan (Billy Edwards) is an insufferable lawyer defending a sketchy big pharmaceutical company. His perpetually ringing cell phone nearly becomes a fifth character.

It starts out nice enough, though oozing with delicious passive aggression.

"You have to taste the clafoutis," says Michael, ushering out a pear and apple confection. "Good clafoutis is an endangered species." That's cla-foo-TAY, by the way.

But for the next 85 minutes (no intermission) we watch the parents fall into the carnage their kids executed more efficiently with a stick. The tension climbs with the help of vomiting, rum and name-calling. Little by little, their true characters are revealed.

The set by Scott Cooper is designed with room for only three people to sit at a time, forcing the physicality in a variety of directions, onto coffee tables and floors, even sending one character airborne as things begin to unravel.

It can be exhausting to watch people fight, but director Karla Hartley manages to avoid the shouting trap God of Carnage could fall into. There are great levels here, handled by the superb actors.

Shea is a wonder of comic timing, a husband so close to the brink of losing his mental lunch, he says things like, "Marriage is the most terrible ordeal God can inflict on you. Marriage and children." And Schenkelberg plays his loose-cannon wife with wild abandon through to her toes, visible once her shoes fly off.

Eventually, the whole set looks like a child's play place littered with prescription pill bottles and art books about people of the tundra. Adult toys, you know.

One piece remains intact, though.

It's a glass and marble sculpture on a podium, a Peter Wright original provided by the Duncan McClellan Gallery in partnership with American Stage. The piece is on sale for $6,000, and the proceeds will go back to the theater.

Yes, part of God of Carnage can be yours, if you can handle looking right at it.

Contact Stephanie Hayes at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

Comments
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

By JULIE GARISTOTimes CorrespondentTAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Gnit strikes gold for theatergoers who appreciate deadpan wit, clever wordplay and incisive commentary on the human condition.First produced in 2013, the retread of a Scandinavian c...
Published: 01/16/18
A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

MIAMI — The idea seemed outlandish, maybe even impossible at the time: a one-man play about Miami’s infamous Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. Some 15 years ago, the Miami-raised Billy Corben was deep into research for what would become Coca...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/16/18

Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

HUDSON —If you saw the musical Pippin when it first hit Broadway in 1972, or a high school drama club version, or even a touring company rendition a decade ago, it’s not exactly the Pippin you’ll see if you’re wise enough to go see the spectacular mo...
Published: 01/15/18
With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

An actor famous for playing a radio station manager will star this week in the world premiere of a radio play.Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder brings Gary Sandy, who played Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, to Ruth Eckerd Hall. And the star power was ...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

If you’re already singing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack alone, why not meet like-minded folks and do it together?A Hamilton singalong goes down tonight at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. Fans will gather to sing the entire — y...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

ST. PETERSBURGThe dancers kept moving, spinning, pausing for arabesques or stretches. Over most of a December afternoon at the Mirror Lake Studios, they rarely stopped, whether rehearsing specific routines or not.Choreographer Lauren Ree Slone also m...
Published: 01/11/18
Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Daniel Lipton, Opera Tampa’s most recent artistic director, is being sought by Canadian authorities in connection with a sexual assault.The alleged assault took place in the late 1980s, a woman the Times is not naming told the Hamilton Police Service...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

TAMPA — The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has ended its relationship with visiting artistic director Doreen Rao. The announcement on Tuesday continues an ongoing uncertainty about leadership for the chorale, which has not had a permanent artistic direc...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/10/18
Show Palace features Pippin

Show Palace features Pippin

HUDSON — The Show Palace Dinner Theatre opens 2018 with a local production of the 1972 Broadway musical, Pippin, which runs evenings and matinees Jan. 13 through Feb. 18. The ensemble performance features an acrobatic troupe led by a charismatic "Lea...
Published: 01/09/18