- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Peterborough NH - The lights come up and in literally less than 60 seconds; the audience is laughing and continues laughing for another eighty minutes. When that happens, you know you’re doing something right. Peterborough Players is doing it right with their production of the sharply written God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. The 2009 Tony Award Winner for Best Play focuses on an afternoon meeting of two sets of parents as they try to come to terms with an altercation between their eleven year old boys. One boy, for reasons yet to be discovered, hit the other with a stick causing him to lose two teeth. While this isn’t the only topic the foursome discusses, it is the one that they continue to come back to with growing insinuation, frustration and exasperation felt by all.
Reza’s wonderful writing of this script is evident as she is so connected to each of the four characters that their lines fit seamlessly with their personalities, their changing moods, their core beliefs and the unique state of mind they are each in during the course of the play. Pleasantries and politeness don’t last long in this modern, relatable drama about relationships, parenting and social interaction. Insults are slung, lines are drawn and crossed, and sides are chosen and comically changed many times throughout. The couples are so different at the start, but end up realizing how similar they are and how not one of them is perfect. Not one knows how to be the perfect parent and as adults they are all still learning how to play nice and get along with others. They all know violence is frowned upon in polite society and with that, I wondered: If the parents can’t behave properly, how do they expect their children to?
Director Gus Kaikkonen and actors Tom Frey, Susan Riley Stevens, David Breitbarth and Kate Hampton supremely paced the show, allowing for awkward pauses, spot-on facial expressions and character moments to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Especially in the beginning, the longer pauses and facial expressions were just long enough to establish the uncomfortable and tense feeling of the characters, yet still be funny to the audience without being so long that it would seem like someone dropped a line or made a mistake.
Tom Frey plays Alan Raleigh, Susan Riley Stevens plays his wife Annette Raleigh, David Breitbarth plays Michael Novak and Kate Hampton plays his wife Veronica Novak. The cast portrayed their characters with realism and all had superb comedic timing. They had great chemistry with each other and were so fully absorbed in their characters and story that the 4th wall was never broken. It was as if the audience didn’t exist. Our reactions to the hilarity and antics on stage didn’t faze them at all. Though all four actors were in the previous production at Peterborough Players, I much preferred their characterizations, character development, and performances that, in my opinion, felt more strongly delivered in this show.
The creative team behind this production blended all the technical and design elements in a way that nothing seemed out of place. For example, the set featured clean, angled lines and unique artifacts that paired well with the smart and snappy script. Director Gus Kaikkonen also served as set designer, while John Eckert designed lighting, Kevin Frazier designed perfectly timed sound, Jessica Ayala designed props and Stephanie Fisher designed costumes.©
This production is rated PG-13 due to strong language and adult situations and runs about 80 minutes with no intermission. God of Carnage plays on the Peterborough Players’ stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, until September 11th, 2016. For tickets and more information call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/