Huntington pays tribute to God of Carnage

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By CAROLYN CLAY  |  January 18, 2012

If Lord of the Flies wanted an upscale-urban bookend, it could do worse than God of Carnage (presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the BU Theatre through February 5). But in French writer Yasmina Reza's Olivier- and Tony-winning comedy, it is unsupervised parents who hear the jungle tom-toms and run childishly amok.

The play begins civilly enough, as two couples meet in a high-end Brooklyn brownstone (the play was moved from Paris for its American premiere) to discuss an altercation between their 11-year-old sons that culminated in one whacking the other in the face with a stick. But by the time 80 minutes have flown by, during which the ostensibly genteel quartet has unleashed its inner barbarians (not to mention some body fluids), you'll wish the lads would turn up to give the grownups etiquette lessons.

Despite its overworked theme of civilization being but a thin veneer, God of Carnage, like Reza's Art, has been an international hit. The 2009 Broadway production garnered a slew of attention, in part because of an all-star cast led by post-Sopranos James Gandolfini. Upping the ante, Roman Polanski recently turned the material into the film Carnage, starring John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz. Though Reza co-wrote the screenplay for that, her play script specifies "no realism." And under Daniel Goldstein's direction, the Huntington adheres, supplying in Dane Laffrey's set a salt-water-taffy take on an elegant Cobble Hill parlor, its lurid yellow walls stretching toward three stories connected by a treacherously rail-less wooden stair. On one landing is a bathroom door behind which Sandy Dennis might lurk, playing "Peel the Label." Carnage is a little like a pintsized Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — except that neither of its teams, however drunk, could go two rounds with Albee's George and Martha.

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