SDTGodofCarnage03
 
Stray Dog Theatre explores the political aspect of parenting with a brilliant production of God of Carnage as two couples meet in order to resolve a playground fight between their respective sons.
 
Annette (Michelle Hand) and Alan (Stephen Peirick) visit Veronica (Sarajane Alverson) and Michael (Michael Juncal) in order to resolve the situation. They are all adults, so things should be settled quickly, right? 
 
The atmosphere is all smiles and pleasantries in the beginning, but when each couple tries to act more outraged and offended than the other, things quickly spin out of control. Use of certain words –  and  more importantly, the tone of those words – set off a never-ending argument which ultimately destroys each of the characters emotionally. 
 
Playwright Yasmina Reza, who is known for her plays that focus on the contemporary middle class, does a marvelous job in realizing each of her characters. Veronica is pretentious to a fault; Annette's timid facade falls away to reveal a ferocious fighter; Michael's neurotic tendencies are exposed once he can no longer hide them; and Adam is a workaholic who apparently cares more about his cell phone than being a good parent. 
 
The beauty of the story is how these four characters butt heads, switch alliances, and allow their inner child to run free causing more havoc than the two boys originally involved. 
 
In the beginning, it is Annette and Alan versus Veronica and Michael. But as the show progresses, Michael and Alan bond and Veronica and Annette unite against the men. Later, Alan and Veronica start to understand each other while Michael and Annette realize they have more in common than originally thought. Indeed, it's a (emotional) swinging good time that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. 
 
When the dialogue ventured into “Men are from Mars...” territory, it felt a bit pedestrian. (All men do not act one way and women another.) Then again, the rum had been flowing and everyone's a bottom-of-the bottle philosopher at this point. 
 
Alverson's crisp delivery shines as she delivers each of her lines like vocal daggers. Her performance was pretentious without being malevolent. Juncal's performance took a moment to warm up, but once he found his rhythm, his comedic and physical comedy commanded attention. Peirick did an amazing job in capturing the unintentional rudeness of today's cell phone user. Watching him take a call while in the middle of a fight, disregarding anyone else in the room, was hilarious.  Hand's performance was engrossing. No matter if she was controlling her husband with a death glare or delivering her lines while face deep in a metal bowl, her performance was flawless. 
 
A great script, a top notch cast, and Director Gary F. Bell's deft artistic hand all combine to make for a night of unforgettable theater. This production showcases ensemble acting at its best. Do yourself a favor and reserve your tickets before every show sells out. 
 
God of Carnage runs Thursdays through Saturdays through February 21. For show times and ticket prices please visit www.straydogtheatre.org
 
You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim
 
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