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Review: 'God of Carnage' entertains with chaos and wit

The small stage of the University of Oregon’s Pocket Playhouse was transformed into a living room on Friday night. The lights rose to reveal two respectable looking couples engaged in polite conversation. Any semblance of normalcy ended there. The Pocket’s production of God of Carnage is tense and absurd, but deliberately so. The over-the top characters, witty script and high energy made for a production well worth watching.

God of Carnage depicts an exchange between two seemingly average couples: Michael and Veronica Novak and Annette and Alan Raleigh. What starts as a discussion about a quarrel between their sons quickly escalates into a roller coaster of emotion and ridiculous behavior. The action ebbs and flows as the most commonplace of issues are turned into huge ordeals, much to the audience’s amusement. Objects are thrown, insults are shouted and all attempts at manners or convention are flung out the window. God of Carnage pokes fun at adults who engage in genial, mature conversation and have outwardly normal mannerisms, and it’s hard not to laugh.

This play was especially well-suited for the Pocket’s theatre environment; it felt as if the audience were sitting in the living room with the cast, observing the wild scene firsthand, which makes for an exciting effect. Additionally, the four-person ensemble cast seemed to feed off one another with positive results. Each of the characters was well-developed and flashes of endearing insanity shone through the fast-paced dialogue. The play seemed to reach its climax several times and was at its best just before these bursts of energy, when the stakes were high and every actor seemed fully invested in the action.

Rikki Scott was especially excellent as the opinionated and occasionally abrasive Veronica Novak. She produced some of the loudest laughs of the evening, and her characterization, both physical and vocal, set her apart. Scott’s high energy and comic timing kept the plot moving, even through the show’s occasional lapses in energy.

As a whole, God of Carnage was an excellent example of the kind of work students on this campus are capable of producing. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching four characters make complete fools of themselves. The play’s depiction of social chaos is certainly ridiculous, but moments of the argument felt unfortunately relatable – social commentary at its finest and funniest. Though at times farcical and quite uncomfortable, God of Carnage is well-acted and well-directed. Veteran theatre-goers and newcomers alike will undoubtedly be entertained.

God of Carnage performs Saturday January 24 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in 102 Villard Hall. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. For more information, visit the Pocket Playhouse Facebook page.

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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.