by Clarke Groome
Benjamin and Harry are two 11-year olds who had a fight. Their parents, in order to do the civil thing, meet to discuss what should be done about it.
That meeting, which is about a lot more than just two kids fighting, makes up Razmina Reza’s hilarious and painful “God of Carnage,” which is on view at the Walnut Street Theatre through April 29.
Translated by Christopher Hampton, “God of Carnage,” which won best play honors in London’s West End and on Broadway, deals with adults who start their conversation like grownups and gradually, over the course of the play’s 75 minutes, deteriorate into the childish savages they all, ultimately, admit to being. Relationships change; weaknesses are exposed; secrets are revealed.
Like Reza’s “Art,” this play starts out being about one thing and devolves into something else entirely. Reza captures her characters’ inner beings in a manner that is both side-splitting and gut-wrenching.
Bernard Havard is the Walnut’s intelligent director. His production benefits from strong designers — Robert Andrew Kovach (set), Shon Causer (lighting), Colleen Grady (costumes), Joseph Simon (sound – mostly ringing telephones) — and from a first-rate cast.
Julie Czarnecki, Greg Wood, Ben Lipitz and Susan Riley Stevens are the combatants in a play that is — someone wrote (I can’t remember who) — a cross between “The Honeymooners” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff.”
The veneer on the characters gradually flakes off, and not only can we feel the change, but we can actually see it. The actors are extraordinary in their ordinariness, which is what makes this play and this production so memorable. That, and it’s really funny, in a very dark, comedic way.
For tickets for the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “God of Carnage,” playing through April 29, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org