A comedy of manners — without the manners
Actors Repertory Theatre’s ‘God of Carnage’ Opens June 6
No matter how civilized and controlled we think ourselves to be, there lurks in each of us a savagery and delight in violence that is just waiting for the right opportunity to erupt. This is the philosophy as spoken by one of the characters in the Actors Repertory Theatre production of “God of Carnage,” running June 6 through June 9 in the Dryden Theatre on the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College. All performances are at 7 p.m.
In playwright Yasmina Reza’s play, a playground brawl has resulted in one boy bashing another in the mouth with a stick, with the loss of two teeth. The injured child’s parents, Veronica and Michael Novak, feel a need to do something about this, and so they’ve invited Annette and Alan Raleigh, the attacking child’s parents, over to their apartment to discuss what that "something" might be. Polite discussion soon spikes into mild, then strong, then volcanic disagreement and argument. The cracks in each couple’s marriage are exposed, as are the insecurities and weaknesses of each individual. Chaos breeds calamity breeds comedy.
Actors Repertory Theatre co-founder and play director Patrick Spradlin compares the play to a merging of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and Monty Python.
“On one level, this play examines two marriages and the frail bonds that bind these people to one another. The story is told with real wit and broad comedic flashes, which gives it the Python flavor,” Spradlin said.
On another level, though, Spradlin likens the play to current-day public discourse on all matters of topics. “We no longer seem to be able to have polite, respectful dialogue anymore,” Spradlin said. “We’ve allowed savagery to be on full display, and somehow think that’s OK.” He also points out that the play is not political in nature, but rather a comedy romp that involves four intriguing characters acting out their worst impulses.
“One other item: while these characters may at times exhibit childish behavior, their language is very, very adult,” noted Spradlin. “This play is intended for mature audiences.”
“God of Carnage” has captured critical acclaim and audience admiration since its original production in 2009. The play won the Tony Award as Best Play and the Olivier Award (Britain’s Tony) as Best New Comedy. The Broadway production starred the late James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis. A film version of the play, entitled ‘Carnage,’ starred Jody Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly. The play was recently revived off-Broadway, and is currently receiving new productions in numerous regional theaters throughout the United States.
“Actors Repertory Theatre was formed to produce work that puts a spotlight on the actors, and this play does just that,” Spradlin said. “I’m fortunate to have assembled a cast of four of the more talented actors in the area.”
Playing Veronica, the liberal social justice warrior, is Erin Caswell. She has been seen by local audiences in productions ranging from “Brighton Beach Memoirs” to “Sweet Charity.” Erin holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Augsburg University, has trained with the Moscow Art Theatre Stanislavski Summer Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has acted professionally in Chicago. Playing her recalcitrant husband Michael is Brian Rhett. A Pillager native, Brian ended a 20 year hiatus from acting to appear in the BCT production of “Wait Until Dark.” He’s been in productions such as “Elf,” “Bye, Bye Birdie,” and was in the ART drama “The Outgoing Tide.”
Maren Martin is well-known to area audiences, having acted in local productions beginning as a child. More recent roles have been leads in “Wait Until Dark,” “Nine to Five,” and “A Few Good Men.” She plays Annette Raleigh, who seeks peaceful resolution but soon finds her behavior anything but. Her lawyer husband, Alan, is portrayed by Kevin Yeager. Yeager has made a mark on the local theater scene with finely crafted portrayals of compelling characters in plays such as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Elephant Man,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
The creative team for “God of Carnage” includes Spradlin, set designer Tim Leagjeld, costumer Melissa Yeager, sound designer Curtis Jendro, and production stage manager Lorri Jager.
Actors Repertory Theatre was founded in the summer of 2022 by Spradlin, Beth Selinger and Jendro. Its mission is to produce works not typically seen in this area, focusing on the artistry and skill of the actor. Beginning in early 2023, Actors Repertory Theatre formed a partnership with the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center. The company’s productions are staged in CLCPAC facilities, which include the Dryden Theatre.
Tickets for “God of Carnage” are available on the ART website at www.art4mn.org . The play is approximately 85 minutes long without an intermission.
This production is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.