Arguments aren’t fun to be a part of, but they sure are fun to watch. God of Carnage, one of two plays currently being presented by Missouri Western, runs with this idea throughout most of its 80-minute runtime. And while the first ten minutes or so are a bit tame in terms of humor, the remainder of the play is an absolute riot, which is basically what you’ll be witnessing onstage.
Before the play begins, two grade school boys, named Benjamin and Henry, get into an argument that results in Benjamin picking up a stick and hitting Henry across the face, knocking out two of his teeth. That afternoon, the parents of the children meet to discuss the matter in a civilized manner. Henry’s parents, Michael and Veronica Novak, are surprisingly calm and civil, especially compared to Benjamin’s parents, Alan and Annette Raleigh. While Annette constantly apologizes and tries to make conversation with the Novaks, her husband, Alan, is busy with phone calls pertaining to his law firm. After about ten minutes of exposition and idle chitchat over how their sons should meet to discuss the incident, the Raleighs decide to depart. However, with virtually nothing resolved, the Novaks insist both Alan and Annette stay for a few more minutes, and it’s here where “God of Carnage” really starts to take off.
Both couples begin finding flaws in each other’s views and attitudes. Eventually, the warm coffee that both couples politely sipped from their cups turns into a never ending supply of rum that is passed around the room several times. It isn’t long before arguments become too much for some of the characters to handle. Fights break out, shirts are torn off and punches are thrown. It soon becomes a free-for-all, with each couple growing tired of the habits of their significant other. Sitting in the audience and watching this chaos unfold is the reason why “God of Carnage” is so good.
But these hilarious situations would be nothing without solid actors and actresses to sell them to the audience. Fortunately, these four performers did not disappoint. Alan Raleigh, portrayed magnificently by George Arnold, was the most believable of the bunch. His professional demeanor and long winded explanations fit his character perfectly. His wife Annette, played by Robin Ussher, was also very believable and incredibly funny once she had consumed enough alcohol. Both Michael and Veronica Novak, played by Riley Bayer and Stacey Park respectively, played off of each other very well. Seeing Michael hesitantly agree with his wife on nearly every topic until he started drinking large amounts of rum was absolutely hilarious. Meanwhile, Veronica’s constant need to bring about peace before giving into the effects of alcohol was priceless. Each actor’s antics also permanently transformed the stage, so that by the end of the play, it was hardly recognizable. “Transformation” is a big theme that is stressed throughout the entirety of God of Carnage, and the fact that each performer was able to demonstrate these changes onstage is a testament to their devotion and abilities as actors and actresses.
“God of Carnage” was a fantastic play that I would recommend to anyone looking for a laugh. Though the first few minutes can feel a bit slow in comparison to the rest of the play, things gradually escalate to a beautiful crescendo of chaos and hilarity. The four performers definitely deserve praise for their acting and willingness to perform some interesting routines. There are some dark undertones present, and the language definitely isn’t appropriate for children, but if neither of these things are an issue, you owe it to yourself to witness “God of Carnage.”