Arts and Entertainment

WICA dives into an intense parental fray with Reza’s ‘God of Carnage’

George Henny, Deana Duncan, Jim Scullin and Nancy Pfeiffer reveal the dark side of marriage and parenting in Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage” at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.  - Photo courtesy of WICA
George Henny, Deana Duncan, Jim Scullin and Nancy Pfeiffer reveal the dark side of marriage and parenting in Yasmina Reza’s play “God of Carnage” at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of WICA

Enter this zone of mayhem at your own risk.

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ theater series delves into the somewhat savage instincts of two seemingly well-mannered couples in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” translated by Christopher Hampton. The play opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.

What begins as a calm, collected negotiation between two high-powered and well-to-do couples quickly unravels into a situation where both parties are stripped of their urbane pretense.

Winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, “God of Carnage” is set one evening in the lives of two couples, residents of a tony Brooklyn neighborhood, who meet to discuss a playground incident. Alan and Annette’s son hit Michael and Veronica’s son in the face with a stick, resulting in two broken teeth. The four of them agree to discuss the incident civilly, but as the night wears on and drinks are imbibed, the polite veneer breaks down.

Bouncing from violent, to crude, to intoxicated, the parents try to rise above the fray, but fall instead, miserably, into a battle between the sexes and a test of their marriages.

Whidbey Island newcomer Andrew Grenier directs the play. He’s had a long relationship with the theater having worked as an actor, director, producer and educator in California.

And, as a former actor, Grenier said he knows the play requires a lot from its cast.

“The actors need to be all in all the time. I know, I know, we hear that all the time; however, Reza’s piece is very much constructed for a ‘string quartet.’ Even at rest the actors are in motion,” he said.

Although the play may strike audiences as quite humorous in its mad, boozy, chaotic arc, Grenier said it’s important that the actors play it straight.

“The play the audience is seeing is not the play we are doing,” Grenier said.

“The author considers the piece a tragedy. She is, in fact, often upset when people laugh at her work. The humor comes from the audience’s experience.”

The act of seeing “God of Carnage,” the director said, is a bit like going to zoo. Although the zookeeper posts signs that clearly say: “Do Not Feed the Animals” or “Do Not Tap on the Glass,” one is compelled to move in closer, press one’s face against the side of the glass and gawk.

“The lizards inside are doing their thing and have their own take on it. They’re living out their experience. You are doing the same,” Grenier said.

“However, in the act of watching the lizards, you bring your own experience to the moment: How you feel about reptiles, what you think is happening based upon those very feelings and assumptions. And it is that experience that determines what you are seeing,” he added.

Indeed, anything with the word carnage in its title is bound to get a few rubberneckers.

Grenier said that perhaps it will go beyond a compulsive act of gawking to that place where one reevaluates relationships, values and beliefs because of what is reflected on the stage. After all, the theater is a mirror of sorts; good theater breeds reflection.

“I do think that the audience will be challenged on a lot of levels,” Grenier said, “and that their own life experience will determine what they see, hear and, perchance, laugh at.”

“God of Carnage” features Deana Duncan, George Henny, Nancy Pfeiffer and Jim Scullin. Set design is by Tyler Raymond; lights are by Megan Besst; Eric Anderson, Sean Brennan, Rebecca Cleary and Doug Kolb created the props; and Steve Ford is the production stage manager.

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, through Saturday, Oct. 29 at WICA in Langley. Tickets range from $12 to $16 and are available by calling 360-221-8268 or 800-638-7631.

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