Written by Yasmina Reza in French and originally set in Paris, this comedy of absolutely no manners was translated by Christopher Hampton and set in London (where it won the Olivier Award for Best Play), then Americanized and set in Brooklyn for its Broadway run. Its success in three countries shows that bizarre parents who behave worse than their children are instantly recognizable and worthy of raucous laughter in all of them.
God of Carnage begins as two sets of parents get together to talk about their 11-year old sons’ schoolyard scuffle. It is all very civil. At first. For a moment or two. Then civilization disappears.
The Human Race production, directed by Margarett Perry (last in Dayton for Painting Churches), is sure to provide what the NY Times called “laughter that comes from the gut.” The cast is composed of four local favorites – Human Race Resident Artists Jennifer Joplin (Doubt, Proof) and Tim Lile (Twelfth Night, Lend Me a Tenor) and real-life Indianapolis couple Jennifer (Twelfth Night, A Christmas Carol) and Rob (Wait Until Dark, A Christmas Carol) Johansen.
To put a little twist on relationships – which is very much in the spirit of the play – the Johansens aren’t married to each other in the show. Instead, Jennifer Johansen is married to Lile, to whom she was about to be wed at the end of the recent production of Twelfth Night. “In the next production, maybe we’ll be divorced,” says Lile.
The Broadway production was very much a star vehicle, with four big names, as is the upcoming movie version, just titled Carnage – in the Broadway case Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini; in the movie, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet.
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable of the bunch, thanks to “The Sopranos,” is Gandolfini, and Lile has the challenge of taking over his role. He says the character has a little Tony Soprano in him, but “it would be a pitfall to think of James Gandolfini as the character. I’ll be more influenced by the other three people on the stage, and they’re a powerhouse group.”
The entire play takes place in a living room. That makes the intimate Loft Theatre a perfect venue, with every seat close enough that the audience feels right at home.
For its 25th Anniversary, The Human Race commissioned five prominent local artists to each create a piece for one of the shows of The Eichelberger Loft Season. Marsha Pippenger created a collage for God of Carnage, one depicting the characters as collapsed paper dolls.
God of Carnage opens with a preview night September 8, with opening night September 9 and performances through September 25. Tickets are available via humanracetheatre.org, by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, or at the Schuster Center Box Office.
As part of the celebration of its 25th season, The Human Race has created a “25-for-25” ticket option, with the 25 seats at each end of The Loft available for just $25 at every performance.
Production sponsors for God of Carnage are Marion’s Piazza, Morris Home Furnishings, Maryann & Jack Bernstein, Penny Profitt and Rand Oliver, and The Flower Shoppe.
The Human Race Theatre Company was founded in 1986 and moved into the Metropolitan Arts Center in 1991, taking up residence at the 219-seat Loft Theatre. In addition to the Eichelberger Loft Season, The Human Race produces for the Victoria Theatre’s Broadway Series, the Musical Theatre Workshop series, and special event programming. The Human Race, under the direction of Producing Artistic Director Kevin Moore, also maintains education and outreach programs for children, teens and adults, as well as artist residencies in area schools, The Muse Machine In-School Tour, and summer youth programs. Human Race organizational support is provided by Culture Works, Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District, Shubert Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this organization with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The Human Race’s 25th Anniversary Season is sponsored by the Miriam Rosenthal Memorial Trust Fund.