Bay City Players Tackle Familial (and Societal) Dynamics through an Intense Living Room Drama

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 893   By: Robert E Martin

11th March, 2020     0

God of Carnage (originally Le Dieu du Carnage) is a contemporary and singularly distinct production written by French playwright Yasmini Reza that explores the dynamics between two sets of parents who meet to discuss a recent incident where one sets’ child serious injured the other in a public park in order to discuss the matter in a ‘civilized’ manner. But as the evening transpires, the parents themselves become increasingly childish, resulting with the evening devolving into chaos and recrimination.

Originally performed in Paris in 2006, Christopher Hampton's English translation of the play led to a 2009 Broadway production starring Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, Hope Davis and Marica Gay Harden, with all four actors nominated for Tony Awards.  Acclaimed director Roman Polanksi also directed a 2011 film adaptation and shortened the title to Carnage.

It is within this historical background that director Connor Klee brings the focus Bay City Players’ own translation of this ambitious work to the Players’ stage from March 20-22 and March 27-29 with a cast consisting of Cameron Pichan as Alan, Melissa Bomemann as Annette, Erin Frye as Veronica, and David Newsham as Michael.

Given the multi-faceted dynamics of this production, coupled with the rather timeless nature of the subject matter, what are some of the challenges and revelations involved with bringing such a tightly woven script to the Bay City Players’ stage?

“For me it centers around working out how these characters interact and respond to one another,” states Connor. “This is because for plays like this one you have to mine everything you can from the text and then work your findings into something that is actionable; otherwise you have a stage full of screaming actors for 90 minutes and that just isn’t fun to engage with. All the other elements or production components then fall into place, especially if you have a team willing to try things and take risks, which, we do.”

Given the increase of violence perpetrated both upon and by children and minors, what does Klee feel are the compelling themes explored and insights rendered by this playh into this disturbing trend?

“That’s a really interesting question, isn’t it? Because the playwright, Yasmina Reza, has gone on record before saying her intention was to keep an overarching theme or political view away from the play. For her it is an interesting examination at adults acting like children. And overall, I would agree with her assessment that the play offers an opportunity to explore a more primal, instinctive exchange, free of judgment; however, I feel we have to tie it all together with some sort of insight. Our production offers up a chance to examine our own repression of the more basic inclinations for the sake of politeness and perceived cooperation.”

Insofar as both sets of parents attempt to meet face-to-face in order to address a violent act involving their offspring in a civilized manner, what does Connor feel each actor brings to their character in terms of setting the tone for the confrontations that evolve throughout this narrative?

“Each member of the cast offers a different take on life and the work we’re doing on stage, which is precisely why they were cast. Being in the room with them and working out the dynamics of these people has been an incredible treat for me.”

“Cameron offers a stoic concentration that couldn’t be further from his character, Alan, and seeing all of that slip away into something more cutthroat and cynical is a joy. Erin, who plays Veronica, is so willing to try new things and take enormous risks that she adapts to anything I or the rest of the cast throws at her. Melissa, I think, is the emotional core of the group because she is so in tune with each moment and what that means for her character, Annette. And David has been building Michael up bit-by-bit every day, just really taking his time to chew on choices and how they mesh with the actions of the others. All these characteristic makes for an incredibly productive, fun, and insightful rehearsal.”

Where does Connor feel 'God of Carnage' sits within the lexicon of contemporary theatre and what does it offer to audiences that should make them want to attend this production?

“For me, God of Carnage is a staple of contemporary theatre. It offers up so much without forcing an agenda, allowing the audience to be an active participant in the storytelling.  What attracts me to this show is how incredibly funny it can be while still making a point about some sort of behavior. What I hope is that audiences are ready to experience something a little off kilter and adjacent to real life, not unlike a warped mirror in a fun house.”

“Additionally, the playwright so expertly insists that this play not hold a sense of realism nor be  superfluous. Meaning, we are free to stretch these interactions in interesting and dynamic ways without the confines of traditional social expectation, while at the same time we only have or do what is necessary for the storytelling. We’re not going full absurdist.”

 Bay City Players production of ‘God of Carnage’ runs from March 20-22 & 27-29. Curtain is at 7:30 PM except for Sunday matinees at 3:00 PM. Tickets are now on sale for $20 adults and $10 students by visiting baycityplayers.com or phoning 989-893-5555.



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