I appreciate that playwright Yasmina Reza is aiming at some kind of satire of bourgeois values in “God of Carnage.” As always with her plays, however, her aim is neither as exact—nor her insight as deep—as she seems to all-too-smugly believe.
Two boys, whom we never see, fight on the playground, and when their parents meet to talk about it all hell breaks loose. Sounds like a juicy scenario for a dark comedy, and, to her credit, Reza does hit certain can’t-miss comic opportunities with flair.
However, numerous important ethical issues are raised, only to be dismissed as rallying cries in the battle of the sexes. In times such as ours, where the stakes in ethical arguments are incredibly high, this kind of too-easy cynicism just doesn’t cut it. Maybe Reza’s trying to make some point about how both men and woman are under the thrall of the “god of carnage,” but if so, it’s hopelessly obscure and diffuse.
Thank goodness, then, that director Matthew Warchus and the four person cast rev up the stakes and comedy that Reza’s script only suggests. This is worth seeing, though, for Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini’s full-throttle performances as the more seemingly civilized of the two couples.