In “God of Carnage,” two couples meet to discuss a playground fight that took place beween their 11-year-old sons.
One boy, Benjamin, has knocked out two of young Henry’s teeth with a stick. The parents start out seeking a civilized solution (to avoid lawsuits and endless insurance claims), but things don’t go well in Yasmina Reza’s award-winning comedy opening Friday and presented by American Stage Theatre Company in St. Petersburg.
“What should be a calm conversation spirals out of control to ridiculous heights,” says director Karla Hartley. “They become worse than the children they are talking about.”
Benjamin’s father, Alan (Billy Edwards), is a lawyer who can’t put down his phone. Benjamin’s mother, Annette (Katherine Michelle Tanner), is in “wealth management.” Henry’s father, Michael (Brian Shea), is a self-made wholesaler. And Henry’s mother, Veronica (Cathy Schenkelberg), claims to an expert on African culture and is writing a book.
“My character starts out trying to be a peacemaker, agreeing with everyone’s viewpoint, but he doesn’t know what to do when things snowball out of control,” says Shea.”Each character has good points and flaws. The challenge is to keep the tension without losing the humor.”
Hartley says the challenge is not to go over the top with the anger.
“No one wants to watch a scream fest, so we have to strike a balance and handle that anger in a funny way,” she says.
Another challenge, from a production standpoint, is that Annette becomes so upset that she throws up onstage. To do this for every performance requires special effects and props that Hartley jokingly calls “the Vomitorium 2000.”
“God of Carnage” won the 2009 Tony Award for best play and London’s Olivier Award for best new comedy. Roman Polanski directed a film version, “Carnage” with Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet.