Updated: Jun 20, 2020
“Ready to Crack Like Dime-Store Pottery”
Never underestimate the pleasure of watching really good actors behaving terribly. Of course you can experience such a spectacle every year around the Tony Awards.
But there is a more sophisticated version of this spectator sport, in which highly skilled stage performers take on roles that allow them to rip the stuffing out of one another, tear up the scenery, stomp on their own vanity and have the time of their lives.
That’s what Aimee Guichard, Keith Bush, Garret Replogle and Shayanne Ortiz are up to at The Wayward Artist, where Yasmina Reza's“God of Carnage” opened last Friday night under the extremely savvy direction of Sarah Ripper. And their performances in Ms. Reza’s streamlined anatomy of the human animal incite the kind of laughter that comes from the gut, as involuntary as hiccups or burping.
Examined coldly, this 90-minute play about two couples who meet to discuss a playground fight between two of their children isn’t much more than a sustained Punch and Judy show, dressed to impress with sociological accessories.
But there’s a reason that Punch and Judy’s avatars have fascinated audiences for so many centuries in cultural forms, low (“The Honeymooners” of 1950s television), and high (Edward Albee’s 1962 drama “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).
“God of Carnage,” which is poised somewhere in between, definitely delivers the cathartic release of watching other people’s marriages go boom. A study in the tension between civilized surface and savage instinct, Reza's Olivier-Award winning play is itself a satisfyingly primitive entertainment of algebraic precision to lonely, frightened ids. All performed with an intellectual veneer.
Her subjects, those two sets of parents who reside in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, are Alan (Mr. Replogle), a smug corporate lawyer, and Annette (Ms. Ortiz), a “wealth manager,” who visits the apartment of Michael (Mr. Bush), a hardware entrepreneur, and Veronica (Ms. Guichard), an author who specializes in Africa’s artistic resources, to discuss how best to deal with a common problem.
Alan and Annette’s son has hit Michael and Veronica’s son with a stick, breaking two of his teeth. The grown-ups have gathered to discuss, logically and amiably, how to deal with the boys. “Fortunately,” says Veronica, the loftiest-minded of the lot, “there is still such a thing as the art of coexistence, isn’t there?”