‘God of Carnage’ rules at the Unicorn

Lindsay Adams

Veronica attacks her husband Michael as Brian tries to pull them apart and his wife, Annette watches gleefully.
Veronica attacks her husband Michael as Brian tries to pull them apart and his wife, Annette watches gleefully.

“God of Carnage” shows how quickly well-intentioned parents turn into prehistoric beasts concerning anything regarding their children. They become infantile, their faces writhing and contorting into distorted pouting.

A tensely polite meeting between two couples whose children got into a fight goes from an unsettling undercurrent to sheer madness.

The couples quickly become combatants in some strange battle they are waging with themselves and the others. Their judgments of each other are quickly reversed inwards as the couples fall to infighting and evaluating their partners. All mental walls are quickly pulled down and the characters are left stripped of their humanity, as we see them ugly and flawed, yet somehow more human.

The drama began with a dumb show with the four actors mimicking the arriving and introductions in slow motion, to flashing lights and electric guitar riff from a Radiohead song. Director Mark Robbins was inspired with the vision for the opening after seeing Radiohead perform on TV. The stage went black. It lit up again for the briefest of moments to show the characters freezing in harsh, grotesque positions of anger, before blacking out again.

Then, the action of the play starts in regular time, with the two couples talking.

From that moment on, the characters’ facade break both violently and hilariously. They tear into each other, stooping to the most immature and juvenile of insults.

There is much inappropriate purging of emotion and unleashing of restrained anger between two couples that hitherto were complete strangers.

There is a constant ebb and flow of tension. The subtle shifts in control over the situation are one of the most dynamic, enthralling things in the show.

It is punctuated by visceral attacks, both physical and emotional, that leave debris of emotions, puke, and tulips scattered around the tastefully decorated living room.

The Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre Cynthia Levin called “God of Carnage,” “a very intimate play.”

Annette Raleigh, played by Melinda McCrary, is a hyper-neurotic woman who stalks around the room like a barely contained bird of prey who is so eager to please that she allows herself to be stepped on.

She and her husband Alan Raleigh played by John Resenhouse, who is a slightly crass, tasteless workaholic, are seemingly the most dysfunctional of the two at the beginning of the play. They are distant, unable to communicate and are not very connected to their child.

Michael Novak, played by Brian Paulette, is a snarky, pessimistic laid-back everyman. He is the most honest of any of the four, and tries to keep the tension from boiling over, providing a painful counterpoint to his wife Veronica, played by Cinnamon Schultz, an idealistic control freak who is constantly harping on everyone else when they don’t measure up to her standards. She is always crusading for the cause of an underprivileged group. As their sanity as in shreds they begin to recognize their marriage is as well.

“God of Carnage” runs 90 minutes without an intermission. It has such a deliberate fluid rhythm through the entire show, that breaking with an intermission would have detracted from the intense hilarity of the play.

“This play is such a roller coaster that you just jump on,” Resenhouse said.

As McCrary explained her first feelings about the end of the show, “I don’t know about this ending. It’s so ambiguous. It’s so weird. But now we love it.”

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