Comedy has been defined as distance plus pain. Thus, when a stranger drops his ice cream cone across the street, that often elicits a laugh. But when your own coveted ice cream cone plummets to the pavement, that’s tragedy.
The Phoenix Theatre’s God of Carnage, a biting satire written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, will have you in stitches — as it did the packed house of opening night last Friday. Just don’t think too hard — that ice cream cone might become your own.
The 21st century presents challenges to us all. But as this pair of upper middle class parents of two 11-year-old boys meet to discuss a playground incident, their attempts to be “comfortably serene” as they sail through life, crash spectacularly onto the rocks before your eyes.
Reza’s drama translates effortlessly across the Atlantic, perhaps striking a stronger chord here. She seems to have an easy understanding of the values we aspire to and to our failings and hypocrisy in parenting and in life. She meticulously, mercilessly and mirthfully exposes them as the play unfolds.
Performed in one act (no intermission –- so get your refreshments beforehand), the play chronicles an afternoon at the Novak residence. The set is tasteful with a Mondrian backdrop and mid-century furnishings. The inevitable telephone plays an important role, as does alcohol. But what makes this play great, what gives it my unreserved, wholehearted recommendation, is the strong cast.
Who knew we had such amazing actors living amongst us in our community? It isn’t just that each is talented in his or her own right, but that together, they make such a convincing and effective ensemble.
Phoenix has raised its bar. It’s so gratifying and maybe a little astonishing to see such a clever and sophisticated production performed at this level right here in Edmonds. I pray for more of the same.
Three caveats: if you don’t want to shatter your delusions of parenting perfection, or if you have a disdain for salty language, this play may not be for you. It’s not really appropriate for children and would just confirm most of their suspicions about parenthood. As much for your own sake as theirs, leave them at home.
Otherwise, I heartily encourage you to find yourself a ticket. It’s the best thing I’ve seen in quite a while!
God of Carnage
by Yasmina Reza
Directed by Rick Wright
Running now through April 29
For more information and tickets:
— By James Spangler