by Lynn on October 28, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

Le DIEU DU CARNAGE (God of Carnage) at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs until November 5, 2011. And NAME IN VAIN (Decalogue Two) in the Tarragon Theatre, ExtraExtra Space until October 30, 2011.

If there is anything similar with these two plays I would say it’s language.

Théâtre Français de Toronto is producing LE DIEU DU CARNAGE (GOD OF CARNAGE)by Yasmina Reza. It’s been done in French with English Surtitles at some

Tarragon Theatre is producing NAME IN VAIN (Decalogue Two) by André Alexis. It’s done almost totally in silence except for the two words that are spoken in vain.


At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs. Written by Yazmina Reza. Directed by Diana Leblanc. Starring: Colombe Demers, Olivier L’Écuyer, Christian Laurin, Tara Nicodemo

Produced by Théâtre Français de Toronto.

I’ll refer to it by its English name GOD OF CARNAGE, even though it’s performed in French with many of the performances performed with English surtitles.

It’s about two respectable couples who have arranged to meet because their two sons have gotten into a fight and one slugged the other in the mouth, knocking his tooth out, which would require surgery, because he was called a snitch.

The parents of the slugger are invited to come to the home of the ‘slugee’, for a civilized chat and to find out what to do. Over coffee and cake the two couples debate on how to handle it.

Do the parents make the boys talk about it to each other? Do they make one boy apologize to the other? They don’t seem to think that’s a good idea.

It’s all very polite, but there are cracks.

One of the husbands is always interrupting the conversation to answer his vibrating
cell phone. He’s a lawyer and he’s trying to weasel a win in a slimy case involving
a drug with dangerous side effects.

He thinks it’s fine to fight…the law of the God of Carnage is his attitude.

His wife is furious at him for the interruptions.

The other couple has their issues—she is a hard nosed woman who likes things just so. She is doing a book on Darfur.

Her husband sells plumbing fittings. She berates him for various transgressions.

Soon the gloves come off. We realize these are not as civilized as they appear.

The play is written by Yasmina Reza who also wrote ART. She deals with questions of friendship, behaviour, controlling etc.

And GOD OF CARNAGE is no different.

Is the outcome of the play obvious? I’m not sure. We certainly see how those boys could have gotten into this fight and why after looking at their parents’ behaviour.

But I think the fun of the play is seeing how it all gradually, subtly unfolds.

I’ve seen this play before, in New York and have to admit I didn’t like it. I thought it was obvious what the outcome would be.

But here I looked at it in a different way. I have to credit director Diana Leblanc for that. I always find that she makes me look harder and think deeper about the play if she is directing it.

In her production it was the journey to the outcome that was more important than the outcome. And of course she has a crackerjack cast.

As the mother of the sluggee, Colombe Demers is sleek, wonderfully subtle in shooting her husband a sidelong glance of contempt, and initially tempered when dealing with the other couple.

As her husband, Olivier L’Écuyer seems a teddy bear of meekness, trying to be accommodating to everyone.

Then on the slugger’s side, as the mother, Tara Nicodemo seems passive aggressive which is hugely effective, and raging when she attacks her husband nd his ever vibrating cell phone. She also has eyebrows that are wonderfully expressive.

And finally as her cell phone addicted husband Christian Laurin is that wonderfully confident guy who is giving lip service to caring about this little situation.

He says he believes that boys should fight and that he God of Carnage rules in such instances, and we see that that God rules in his work too.We see where the slugger got his aggressive attitude.

So while we can sense the outcome, the journey is where the fun is.

I really liked this production.

And now for something completely different, a play with no dialogue except for two words.

NAME IN VAIN (Decalogue Two).

At the Tarragon Theatre ExtraExtra Space. Written by Andre Alexis. Directed by
Richard Rose. Starring: Walter Borden, Sergio Di Zio, Dean Gilmour, Eric Goulem,
Richard McMillan.

Produced by Tarragon Theatre.

Yes you definitely can tell what the story is if there is almost no dialogue?

Writer Andre Alexis wanted to write a play about the second commandment: ‘thou shalt not take the lord’s name in vain.’ He plans on doing plays about all ten commandments. And he raised the bar by doing the play for the most part in silence.

You watch the interaction between the characters and the story reveals itself.

Five monks work a large patch of ground, growing potatoes. They greet the day, looking up into the bright sun, squinting, feeling the warmth of the sun on their faces.

They greet each other with a tender hug. Then they set about working.

You can tell the personality of each monk. There is the mediator, Monk 1; the beloved senior monk, Monk 2; an young eager to please monk, Monk 3; simple-minded monk, Monk 4 who is treated with care and gentleness, for the most part by the others; and the impatient, no-nonsense monk, Monk 5.

The monks till the soil, smell it, weed, dig, water, they sweat with the labour in the hot sun and fret about the crops.

They are startled in the middle of the night when it looks like blight might destroy the crop.

Over the course of a day’s work, the simple monk is frequently distracted by a bird.
The others gently point him back to work. The impatient Monk finally reacts in anger and the two words are spoken in vain.

Then we see how he and the others handle that too. So with this movement and mimed action the story gets told.

I don’t think it’s perverse or pretentious to write a play with only two words and the rest mimed?

I think there have been other plays along these lines. I wondered too what was written or was it all the actor’s and director, Richard Rose’s invention. The clue is in the programme cover.

The five monks are there with their hoes and rakes etc. They are all standing on the ground with writing on it and the writing is all stage directions. For example: “Monk 4 turns toward Monk 5, puzzled.” Translation: the simple-minded monk looked at the impatient monk, puzzled.

All the action and reactions are scripted.

I recall years ago seeing a play called STAGE DIRECTIONS by Israel Horowitz. The whole play, but one word, was stage directions with the actors giving voice to the stage direction in the manner of the stage direction.

So the first speech was “Richard enters and slams the door in fury.“ And the actor playing Richard speaks the stage direction, while entering and then slamming the door. And so on for the other characters.

There is one word at the end of the play. I think it’s “hello.”

In a way, Andre Alexis is doing the same thing but raising the bar as I said by having it all silent except for two words.

Is it even a play?


The interactions of the Monks is all. How they treat each other.

How the young monk is eager for the approval of the impatient monk and doesn’t get it, and how disappointed he is. How they all help the simple-minded monk when he gets so distracted. How they treat the earth and their jobs. How one of the monks is so unsuited for that calling,

And most chilling how one of them is taking on his unfortunate traits. There is drama and tension there.

I think it’s fascinating.

The story is very clear because it’s meticulously directed by Richard Rose and beautifully acted. Rose has taken the time to show how careful these monks are with their tasks.

The whole cast is exemplary: Walter Borden feeling the sun on his skin as the beloved old monk; Sergio Di Zio, the young, eager to please monk; Dean Gilmour has a face full of wonder and easily distracted as the simple-minded monk; Eric Goulem, impatient and angry as the monk who speaks the Lord’s name in vain; Richard McMillan, patient and caring and the mediator.

Here’s the best review: A lady coming out of the performance I was at said, she got a
sun tan watching that show. Brilliant. This is theatre that takes you right into the world of the play.

NAME IN VAIN is a fascinating, bold theatical experiment.

LE DIEU DU CARNAGE (God of Carnage)
plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs until November 5.

NAME IN VAIN (Decalogue Two) plays at the new Tarragon Theatre’s ExtraExtra Space until October 30.

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