Through the use of witchcraft, Center Theatre Group has brought the original Broadway cast of God of Carnage to the Ahmanson for a very limited time. What does that mean exactly? That means that for the next month or so, you have the opportunity to see James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis put each other through the most entertaining kind of hell imaginable on-stage, eight times a week for your entertainment. All you have to do is get off your ass, buy a ticket and laugh your ass off. It’s almost not fair. You should bring them cookies.
The play is based on a simple premise-one set of parents (Gandolfini, Harden) invites another (Davis, Daniels) over to their stylish Brooklyn apartment to discuss an incident which took place at a local park in which Davis & Daniels’ 11 year old son struck the Gandolfini/Harden boy (also 11) with a stick. The tone, at first, is painfully civil. Amidst the coffee-table books and tulips, the couples munch clafoutis and discuss the best way to address this most un-Brooklyn-like (that’s gentrified Brooklyn, mind you) burst of savagery and violence. Of course, while polite behavior may make for a delightful Passover Seder, it makes for pretty dull theatre, so, pretty soon, the veneer of courtesy is ripped off, the booze comes out and everyone loses their shit in magnificent fashion. Particularly good is Daniels, who begins as the most obnoxious of the lot and eventually is revealed as possibly the most sane. Certainly, he is the most in touch with the larger brutality of the world beyond Brooklyn and the most self-aware. The other actors have flamboyant and wonderful outbursts, but he is the axis around which the madness spins and, as a result, the most subtly compelling of the bunch.
This is not the first play to expose the childish, petty brutality that lies just beneath the blond-wood veneer of polite society but it is a fine specimen of the breed. It is nothing more and nothing less than a beautifully written and exceptionally performed play. If you think you like theatre- go see it. If you don’t think you like theatre- definitely go see it. It will change your mind. - Eric Sims
Now at the Ahmanson through May, 29th, 2011.