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“God of Carnage”

“God of Carnage”

We saw the Tony-winning “God of Carnage” last night from house seats. Billy Crystal sat in front of us, and I reminded him that he shook my hand in the front row at the conclusion of his one-man play a while back.

That was the highlight of my evening.

Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden moved from the expected to the predictable, two couples ostensibly trying to reconcile a fight between their sons, but who wind up in violent argument themselves. You know what’s going to happen from ten miles away, so the tension is in how it transpires. Despite the mostly excellent acting (I find that Gandolfini reads his lines, and it’s not the Soprano connection that does him in, it’s his acting, which is emotionless), the ten miles is a long trek on tough roads.

About a third of the packed house laughed at lines that not only weren’t funny, but I’m convinced the playwright never intended to be funny (the work, by Yasmina Reza, is a translation). This is an increasingly bizarre nature of the theater today: People who seem to be desperately trying to convince themselves that they’re having a “good time,” and that they “get it.” They appear to want to justify the tab.

Daniels, probably the best actor on stage, was the stereotypical wheeler-dealer who kept taking cell phone calls. Finally, obviously, the cell was ripped from his hands and dunked in a vase, which was greeted with applause. Get it? We’d all like to do that, right? (Meanwhile, a guy across the aisle took a quick text message and returned it on a glowing screen. I guess he was a brain surgeon doing a remote consult.)

The obligatory, sort of sporadic, tepid, standing ovation followed the evening, the kind that begins with a few people standing up and blocking the view, as opposed to everyone leaping to their feet. The good news is that it is one scene, one act, and we were out at 9:40 before 10,000 other theater-goers, and it was easy to get a cab back downtown.

I had to thank God the carnage was that brief. Otherwise, I might have left at intermission, which one couple chose to do ostentatiously an hour into the drama. They scurried up the aisle as if afraid to be caught and dragged back.

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 3

  • Roberta Matuson

    July 16, 2009

    Great post Alan!

    My husband and I felt the same way about Rent. We waited 9 months for tickets. Unlike the couple you described, we were not brave enough to leave after one hour. Guess we thought it had to get better. The standing ovation at the end was the real shocker, but it made our quick exit easier to navigate.

    Roberta Matuson

  • Alan Weiss

    July 16, 2009

    Rent was louder than it was good. If the playwright hadn’t died at the time, it would never have received so much attention. It was La Boheme on steroids.

  • Roberta Matuson

    July 16, 2009

    I’m relieved to hear we weren’t the only ones that felt that way!


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