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God of Carnage at Center Stage Theater

French Drama/Comedy By Way of New York


Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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The director and teacher Peter Frisch has given a great deal of support to the performing arts community here in Santa Barbara, both through his leadership as the initial directory at the new Granada and through his acting studio classes. He’s a seasoned professional, with serious credits in stage and television, and I’m sure he’ll be back with something interesting for us soon, but I regret to report that this production of God of Carnage at Center Stage is not up to his usual standards. Maybe this existential comedy of manners has traveled through one culture too many on its journey from the French stage first to London, then New York, and now Santa Barbara, because somehow, Friday’s performance never found the proper tone for Yasmina Reza’s script. As the class-marked wholesaler, Michael Novak, Bill Egan played the part with too strong an accent and too broad a delivery to mesh well with the nuanced material. In contrast, Jennifer Vogel’s portrayal of Veronica Novak, Michael’s liberal/highbrow wife, seemed not vivid enough to strike the right balance. As the other couple, Annette Raleigh and Alan Raleigh, Robin Burrows and Thom Zimerle were equally unsympathetic—which could be considered a success, if that’s the interpretation of the script intended here—but somehow the back-and-forth of the dialogue did not quite mesh, as it must, no matter what you’re trying to get across. It could be that I walked in on an off night, but I’m still puzzled by what this version of God of Carnage is trying to achieve.

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To say that, "Maybe this existential comedy of manners has traveled through one culture too many..." is an insult. The original cast of Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden we're each nominated for Tony Awards with Hope Davis winning the award. The director was nominated, as well as the play, with the play winning the 2009 Tony Award. Why not just be truthful and say it. This material was way too much for the Santa Barbara cast and director to have any possibility of success.

Ronald Grimes, Santa Barbara

magmb1 (anonymous profile)
June 18, 2013 at 8:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is this the same play that inspired the Polanski film with Winslet, Foster etc.?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 18, 2013 at 9:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmm, I was there on Friday night, too, and wonder why Donelan neglects to mention the enthusiastic standing ovation the audience gave the show at the end!
Perhaps he was too "puzzled" by the whole thing to notice that others had a great time??
I really enjoyed the show and highly recommended it to others.

whichway (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2013 at 1:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I was there on Friday night too, and the audience was having a great time. They laughed out loud the whole time and reacted in all the right places. Not to mention the standing O! It's sad to me that these people work so hard to create something for us and themselves and there is no positivity at all in this review. Yes, Donlan can not like it, but why ruin it for those of us who were there (and potential future audiences) by not even mentioning the fact that we all loved it? Bravo, cast and crew!

jackiebou (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2013 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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