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"God of Carnage" finds fun in nasty behavior

A scene from God of Carnage
Phil Rice
A scene from God of Carnage

“God of Carnage” might be the most intense comedy you’ve ever seen. In fact, a better definition might be it’s a serious drama at which you laugh a lot.

The marvelously performed production by Creative License that continues Friday through Sunday at Cohoes Music Hall makes the work even harder to define.

There is no character in the cast of four that you can embrace. At times each person displays an irritating trait (or two) and each says some hurtful things. Yet there is very little meanness in the play.

The reason it is difficult to either like or dislike any of the characters is because somewhere in their barbed exchanges there is a spark of self-recognition.

At one time or another their statements will remind you when you went too far in defending a position that did not warrant the intensity you brought to the argument.

In this case, it is two parents meeting to have a civil discussion about a fight their 11 year old sons had in a playground. The “civil” discussion turns nasty as resentments and privilege seep into conversations.

What keeps this from seeming cruel is the same element that keeps upping the humor. That is the shifting of alliances.

At times it is couple against couple. Other times it’s men bonding with each other or wives with wives. And of course, it all comes to a climax when husbands and wives turn on each other.

Such instant shifting of moods and points of view demand great skill by the performers. Fortunately, the actors of Creative License are as close to perfect as you can get.

As the Novaks, Aaron Holbritter and Brigitta Giulianelli are the blueish collar couple whose son was wronged and they bear an inner resentment to the wealthier couple. They are great fun as their passive-aggressive behavior turns fully blown aggressive.

The Raleighs seem less concerned about their kid’s conflict. Their haughty behavior is perfectly personified by the way Ian LaChance, as Alan, spends more time doing business on his cell phone than engaging with the others. As Annette, Casey Polomaine is high strung to the point of getting sick on stage.

Each actor shows great comic timing as well as slow burn reaction. Most important, as nasty as these people sound, there is no malice in the portrayals. This makes bad behavior laughable rather than having you constantly cringing.

Phil Rice directs the piece with confidence and skill. The many transitions of mood seem normal and the fast pace he sets builds on the humor and makes rudeness funny.

A problem I’ve had with other productions is the play just seems to stop as it runs out of energy.

Rice solves that problem with help of lighting designer Owen Smith. They create a closing image that if it were a painting it could be titled “Regret.”

“God of Carnage” continues Friday through Sunday at Cohoes Music Hall. Tickets and schedule information at 518-434-0776.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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