Given its sharply funny script, Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage is one of the few plays I could see over and over again. And while Scott Community College's presentation of this story about two sets of parents discussing a fight between their young sons doesn't quite live up to the brilliance of Reza's dark comedy, director Kevin Babbitt and his cast and crew still nail the play's most important points. That includes the necessary on-stage puking, which is just one enjoyable element in what ends up a rather humorous production.
While the physical fight between the boys, one of whom is left with two fewer teeth, is the core of the plot, God of Carnage is really about the parents and their skewed, shallow, bitter, and over- or under-involved senses of what matters. At this, the parents' first meeting, their cordial introduction descends into a drunken, accusatory, profanity-laden mess, and Sara Bolet's neurotic Veronica Novak - the mother of the boy with the new dental issues - could be blamed for being at the problems' center. With Bolet's even-tempered delivery accompanied by wide-eyed facial expressions that blend threatening curiosity and incredulity, Veronica goes so far as to draft a carefully worded agreement for the parents to sign, placing full blame squarely on the shoulders of her son's attacker. This pushes the other couple over the edge to the point where they finally snap and reveal that Veronica's son instigated the fight.
I've frequently said that I'm a Bolet fan, especially for her comedic roles, with her performance in 2012's The Actor's Nightmare a particular stand-out. She has an atypical, passively hilarious presence that can be read as stiff and uncertain, in that she doesn't deliver humor outright, but rather lets the lines slip it through without her help. That may sound like a criticism, but the sincerity behind Bolet's portrayals, including hers here, is what makes them work so well. Bolet's style perfectly suits the uptight, morally superior Veronica, and although she occasionally seemed to struggle in remembering some lines during Friday's performance, she remained, for me, one of its highlights.
The other was William Marbury as Alan Raleigh, the father of the boy who hit Veronica's son with a stick. Marbury first caught my attention in 2013's The Elephant Man, and ever since, he's offered impressive performance after impressive performance. In God of Carnage, Marbury maintains a smug expression and poised countenance that, considering his social status and career as a lawyer, obviously comes from Alan's condescending feelings of self-importance. Because pacing was an issue during Friday's presentation, and most of the stunted tempo was due to a fair amount of missed cues and line-recollection pauses, it's worth noting that Marbury has his lines down and, even better, made an obvious effort to consider Alan's many layers.
In contrast, Colton Cutforth hasn't yet fleshed out Veronica's obliging husband Michael quite as much. Except when Michael is excited in his anger, there's a physicality missing from Cutgorth's depiction, and his inflections lack personality. When he is worked up, though - as when Michael finds common ground with Alan and there's camaraderie in his smile and a bounce in his walk - his vocal deliveries come alive, and Cutforth connects with his character more than at other points in the piece.
As Alan's wife Annette, Amanda Dugan also puts her best acting foot forward when worked up, especially in anger. Amanda's arguments with Veronica over which boy deserves blame, and with her husband about his constant and disruptive use of his cell phone, are her brightest moments. Otherwise, her calculated readings and somewhat melodramatic head turns are underwhelming - though it could be argued that they do lend themselves to the Stepford-wife vibe that Dugan seems to be attempting. Her puking scene, however, came off without a hitch, and the projectile vomit surprised several audience members who, judging by their loud gasps, probably didn't expect it. (The Babbitt-created mechanism by which the liquid pours forth from Dugan's mouth is effective and well-hidden while in action.)
Unless it was horrendous, I'd likely never recommend passing up the chance to see a production of God of Carnage. And while Scott Community College's production isn't perfect, it's still well worth a look, especially if you've yet to be introduced to Reza's work.
God of Carnage runs at Scott Community College's Student Life Center (500 Belmont Road, Room 2400 through Door Five, Bettendorf) through April 18, and more information is available by calling (563)441-4339 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.