Yasmina Reza is one of the most acclaimed writers of the last few years, and with her latest play, God of Carnage, she’s catapulted herself into star status. The play has hit stages all over the world, and has starred some of the biggest names in the business, and even inspired Roman Polanski’s latest film, Carnage, which stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz. Austinites can see what all the hubub is about for themselves thanks to Zach Theatre and their production of this modern masterpiece. This bold play calls in some of the biggest names in the Austin scene and uses them in clever ways to create a memorable, hilarous night of comedy and mayhem many Ausinites won’t soon forget.
Zach, however, doesn’t just play by the book, they do something fascinating with the casting of the play: they cast one of the families as African American. This adds dimensions to the play that didn’t exist on paper, and makes certain lines and phrases take on whole new meanings, transforming the play into something wholly new in the process. When black father Alan says “my son is a Savage”, or when white Veronica mentions that she is fascinated by the turmoil in Darfur, these aren’t simple declarations or moments of chit chat any more, but questions of heritage and culture, and when the rough language starts flowing, it takes on an ever-increasingly racial tone that only adds to the tension (and occasional hilarity). Kudos to director Matt Lenz for making such a bold choice with casting, as it truly adds an entirely new side to the play that audiences will probably not have seen before.
Lauren Lane comes to Zach stages once again, and once again steal the show for much of her time on stage as the cultured writer Veronica. Whether she’s playing the nitpicking intellectual or the sobbing drama queen, Lane is always at the top of her game, showing remarkable range over the short span of the play. She always seems to know how to play for the most laughs in any given scene, without having to ham is up for the guffaws, but playing it all straight, thereby adding even more to the hilarity. Thomas Ward makes the perfect straight man to Lane’s craziness, stoic and proud, but he also doesn’t mind bringing his own brand of humor to the party (as he’s given one of the best lines in the entire play, and plays it beautifully).
Playing alongside this duo are two talented actors who graced our stage in two critically acclaimed Zach plays. Eugene Lee, who wowed audiences in the shocking drama Book of Grace, returns with his trademark intensity as Alan, and proves to be a master at building tension, which only makes the play that much funnier in turns. He roars around the stage like a thunderstorm, upsetting the apple cart at almost every turn, turning each moment into something truly intense and thoughtful in the process. Angela Rawna plays his perfect foil as his wife Annette, a sweet as sugar business woman who knows when to turn on the sass when the need arises. Watching this transformation from gentle wife and mother to roaring mama bear is a delight, and by the end of the night as she rants and raves, you’ll be gobsmacked at her versatility.
In God of Carnage, Zach brings one of the best plays of the last few years and casts it with some of the best actors the city has to offer, and the results are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Each actor plays their part with fine-tuned precision, keeping us on our toes and laughing our guts out all the while as we never truly know where this wild ride may take us.