by Lynn on May 24, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the CAA Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Produced by the Toronto Stage Company in association with Mad Resilience Films, Playing With Fire Productions and Angelica Alejandro.  Plays until May 28, 2023.

Written by Yasmina Reza

Translated by Christopher Hampton

Directed by Mark Datuin

Production designed by Jon Chaters

Costumes by Nola Chaters

Lighting by Mikael Kangas

Cast: Angelica Alejandro

Jarrod W. Clegg

Luke Marty

Amy Slattery


The Story. Two couples meet to discuss what to do about an altercation between their two 11-year-old sons.  Alan and Annette’s son Benjamin hit Veronica and Michael’s son Henry in the mouth with a branch causing Henry’s two front teeth to be bashed out—swelling, damage, orthodontistry. Benjamin apparently did it because Henry wouldn’t let him join his gang.

The couples meet at Veronica and Michael’s house as accommodating, respectful adults who want a fair outcome. Coffee and clafouti are served. Alan calls his son a thug and a savage and appreciates the laws of the jungle….and the God of Carnage who seems to work with no mercy. Alan, a lawyer, is also pre-occupied with a client and constantly interrupts the conversation to answer his vibrating cell phone. His wife Annette starts off as calm but as the play goes on she becomes more hardnosed and infuriated with her husband’s phone calls.

Michael is mild-mannered initially. He wants the whole matter solved so he can go back to his life.  His wife Veronica is the protective mother who is fierce with anyone she perceives as doing her family harm.  She wants an apology from her son’s attacker. She wants her husband to stand-up for their kid. So gradually we see the subtle shifts in the relationships and how easily something that is polite and balanced can turn ugly and totally off kilter.

Where do bully children come from? From bullying, passive-aggressive, whiny parents, like these.

The Production.  Playwright Yazmina Reza has written a play of subtlety, wit and perception at the folly of people/parents who are well-off and overprotective. Reza has laser vision to dissect this kind of behaviour. The play reveals itself pretty quickly as each character reacts to the situation.

One can talk about the furnishings (fine); the lighting (bright) the costumes (dandy) but it all goes for naught if the cast is not up to the task, and for the most part, they aren’t. They are obviously microphoned to be heard but even that is not helpful to Amy Slattery who plays Veronica and Angelica Alejandro who plays Annette. Alejandro in particular is inaudible because she talks so quietly or garbles her words. (Did no one sit in the audience to actually ‘hear’ this show during rehearsal?)  For the most part the acting is laboured, without nuance or any kind of subtlety and the humour for this funny comedy, is almost non-existent. Only Luke Marty as Alan has a sense of the character and the play. It is soon obvious why—he is a classically trained actor. One can’t find anything even close to professional stage work in the bios of the others.

The direction by Mark Datuin is pedestrian at best.

Comment. Writing this negative review gives me no pleasure. When the producer invited me to the opening I had to ask if this was an Equity production—that’s what I review, not non-equity work. The producer assured me that every member of the cast was either an Equity Member or an ACTRA Member/Apprentice. That does not mean that they are trained actors. But one lives in hope every time one goes to the theatre, that this will be a good production. We go with optimism. This production is dispiriting. My initial thought was not to review it, but as a wise friend said, “they have to be told.” And it’s true.

Theatre actors slug their guts out getting training, taking classes, honing their craft—and theatre acting is a craft—auditioning for projects, delving deep into the heart and soul of the work, coping with disappointment. They invest their lives in the art of theatre. They don’t dabble in it.

Everything about this production of God of Carnage struck me as a vanity production for dabblers. Not good enough.

The Toronto Stage Company in association with Mad Resilience Films, Playing With Fire Productions and Angelica Alejandro present:

Plays until May 28, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roman May 24, 2023 at 11:55 pm

It fell completely flat. I was watching stilted recitation of lines, wishing it was James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels up there.


2 Lynn May 26, 2023 at 1:05 am

I would have been happy with a whole cast who could act and a director who could at least stage. Sigh.
Lynn Slotkin