*Originally posted on the Capital Critics’ website here!*

God of Carnage: Third Wall Theatre’s Comeback Kid

Brie McFarlane

You might be wondering why Third Wall Theatre Company would choose to perform a script like God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza and famously adapted into the Roman Polanski film Carnage, after an eighteen month hiatus when their mandate pertains to presenting shows from the classical canon: Shakespeare, Shaw, Beckett etc. In the show’s program James Richardson, Artistic Director and founder of Third Wall, states that the company is looking to produce shows which he defines as “classics to be”. In my opinion, I thought that this script was a great choice for what many people are calling their “comeback”.

The script explores the struggle to remain refined in an uncivilized world through the interactions of two married couples, the Vallons and the Reilles, who are meeting for the first time in regards to a playground fight involving their respective sons. Try as they might to remain above the situation, the palpable pretense quickly deteriorates and the characters find themselves acting no better than the children they intended on reforming. Throughout it all, the audience is left wondering if it is better to stand and fight for civilized society or to just accept that we are nothing more than Neanderthals ruled by this god of carnage.

Performing on the main-stage at the GCTC, recruiting Toronto director Ross Manson, and casting four well known local equity actors (Todd Duckworth, Mary Ellis, John Koensgen, and Kristina Watt), it is very clear that Third Wall is riding heavily on this production. I think, however, that this was a smart risk to take. The set design by Brian Smith, an asymmetrical thrust-like stage with certain elements cut in perspective and framed by four hanging white draperies, is clean, crisp, and so effective at lending itself to great blocking opportunities that I also have to give kudos to Ross Manson for capitalizing on the design and creating such a variety of clear stage pictures. The costumes, designed by Sarah Waghorn, are telling of each character before the first line is even uttered and the sound and lighting design, by James Richardson and Rebecca Miller respectively, are kept minimal so as to not detract from the text or actions on stage.

The acting is exactly what you would expect from these four Ottawa stage veterans: solid. Though there were a few line fluffs and rhythm inconsistencies during this first of two previews, I can safely say that this cast will only get better throughout the run. Comfortable and confident with one another, their stage awareness is impeccable. Special mentions have to go to Todd Duckworth whom I’ve never been quite sold on, but absolutely nails his portrayal of lawyer slash realist Alain Reille; and an equally strong Kristina Watt as his wife Annette.

I urge the Ottawa theatre community to get out and see this show because this is what professional theatre should look like. Engaging from beginning to end with strong and clear direction, acting, and design choices I am crossing my fingers in hopes that this show propels Third Wall back to its former glory and, finally, to quote famous rap artist L.L. Cool J, don’t call this a comeback…they’ve been here for years.

God of Carnage plays at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre until March 2nd.

God of Carnage written by Yasmina Reza

Directed by Ross Manson

Set designer: Brian Smith

Lighting: Rebecca Miller

Sound design: James Richardson

Costume designer: Sarah Waghorn

Cast:

Alain Reille………….Todd Duckworth

Véronique Vallon…….Mary Ellis

Michel Vallon…………John Koensgen

Annette Reille………….Kristina Watt