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Courtesy is a waste of time

by The Concordian November 8, 2011
It’s always refreshing when a piece of theatre takes a new twist on a classic form. Sometimes called a comedy of manners – without the manners – Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage does just that.
In addition to the play’s success on Broadway, it has also been very well received at London’s West End in the past. This week, the Centaur Theatre presents the Montreal debut of the Tony Award‐winning play.
The play begins with a meeting that has been set between two couples to discuss a playground brawl that occurred between their two young sons. The four sophisticated urban professionals, Annette, Michael, Alan and Veronica, struggle to put their best foot forward, but despite their efforts, the evening devolves all too quickly. The conversation goes from bad to worse as alcohol begins to flow, insecurities are exposed, and more than just feelings are hurt.
This wildly entertaining comedy exposes how even the most civilized people can resort to childishness when other types of polite interaction fail.
“I think they start off with really great intentions. The fact that it turns into such chaos is part of the beauty of it,” said Roy Surette, the artistic director. “Comedy is always based on conflict.”
God of Carnage is absolutely bursting with it. As the characters begin to discuss more serious issues, different allegiances form, leading to a number of hilarious circumstances. “You really get taken on a roller coaster ride through the course of the evening,” he said.
Surette was quickly attracted to the play’s script. “[It’s] the rigour of the writing. I just love
the richness of the characters and complexity of the argument,” he said. In essence, he feels the play is about “marriage, children and the challenges of determining your values in contemporary
society.”
The play provides an interesting commentary on human behaviour which seems to fascinate audiences. “It’s kind of like watching a train wreck, you can’t not look,” said Surette.
Originally written in French, it was translated by Christopher Hampton. Despite the translation, he said “[the play] really does maintain a great use of language.” The production team spent much of their limited time analyzing the text and interpreting it. Surette feels that for this show especially, “the actors have to really be playing the subtext, [because it’s] as important as the text itself.”
Surette calls Ellen David, Marcel Jeannin, Mark Camacho and Janine Theriault “a dream cast.” During casting, he was looking for actors who had an aptitude for searching beneath the surface of the text, and projecting deeper meanings. Three out of four leads have kids of their own, and he encouraged them to bring their own anecdotes and experiences to the table.
The set, which was designed by Michael Eagan, was intended to be fairly stylized but still elegant. Surette is confident that audiences will be surprised by how much action actually takes place in what appears to be a demure sitting room. There are more surprises in store too, in the form of elaborate stage effects which will simulate the notorious on-stage vomiting scene.
Surette feels that God of Carnage has been so popular because people are really able to relate to it. “It is one of those pieces that has made a big impact around the world,” he said. 

God of Carnage opens Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. and runs until Dec. 4. Student tickets are $25.50 and rush tickets are $20 if booked one hour before showtime the day of. For a full schedule of shows, visit www.centaurtheatre.com/43_godofcarnage.html.

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