Playcrafters' ‘God of Carnage' full of heated steel

We all know not to judge a book (or play) by its cover. But in Playcrafters’ September production of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s multi-award-winning, “God of Carnage,” one might assume the costume design involves some kind of steel armor for the characters; the title evokes nothing less than a swelling stage of swords, spears, breastplates and chariots.

But Director Lori Maxwell would laugh at that notion, as she can attest that the only steel onstage is in the nerve of the actors, specifically the roles of their onstage characters.

“It’s an adult comedy,” said Maxwell. “There’s language in it.”

And only four characters. They are played by Breffny Rouse, John Bell, Jeffrey Barg and Christine Martuscello.

Reza’s one-act story centers on two sets of parents — the Novaks and the Raleighs — who meet to discuss a fight between their 11-year-old children and their attempts to resolve the matter in a civilized manner. (It seems their two boys have become embroiled in a fight over being allowed to join a gang, with one knocking the other’s teeth out earlier in a local park. All of the action takes place prior to the show’s start.)

As the evening progresses, the four adults (a lawyer and his spendthrift wife along with a wholesaler and his wife, a writer) eventually segue into a heated turmoil that escalates into the unfathomable. Other topics come up for discussion that have little to do with why they gathered in the first place, including homophobia and racial prejudice.

The evening does not bode too well for any of them as each takes on the roles of childishness. You can only imagine what ensues.

“I think it’s something everyone can relate to,” said Maxwell of the play that is set in everyday current America and is only one hour and 20 minutes long. “Issues between couples, aging parents, and good citizenship. My hope is that, at the end of the play, people start a discussion.”

Reza’s fondness for one-act plays has resulted in global success through their translations and subsequent productions in numerous countries as well as her 2009 Tony for “God of Carnage” (Best Play) and a Laurence Olivier award in the same year. It is the third-longest running play of the 2000s on Broadway after “The 39 Steps” and “August: Osage County.” The work was also made into a 2011 film, “Carnage,” directed in Paris by Roman Polanski and starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz.

“The actors are outstanding,” said Maxwell of the current production that once starred James Gandolfini, who played the part of Michael Novak. On opening night there is a wine-and-cheese party and a chance to mingle with the actors — a traditional Playcrafters offering.

“This piece is really challenging, and you have to keep the momentum going. But it’s written so well that I can’t imagine people not laughing — and thinking as they leave,” she said.

If you go:

“God of Carnage”

is showing

at Playcrafters at Skippack,

2011 Store Road at Rt. 73,

Skippack, PA 19474,

Sept. 12-14, 20, 21, 26-28, 8 p.m.

& Sept. 22, 3 p.m.

Tickets: $15.

Info: 610-584-4005 or

www.playcrafters.org.

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