As I write this (May 26, 2009), "The God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza is a huge hit on Broadway and has numerous Tony nominations. As in "Life X 3" the dramatist has assembled four people in a room, two couples Veronique and Michel Vallon paired against Alain and Annette Reille. The Reille son Ferdinand has struck eleven-year-old Bruno Vallon with a stick and knocked out two of the boy's teeth.
Two couples arguing over a children's playground fight? No, that would be too easy for Reza. It's a contest that drags in the state of the two marriages, the attributes and characters of all four adults. It becomes a war of wills, probing the fabric of their lives and lies.
It's fun to watch these four people destroying themselves and each other as battle lines are drawn and redrawn. The insults they throw at each other are priceless. Loyalty to one's spouse becomes a disposable commodity. Spouses turn on spouses; new alliances are formed and dissolved. Vomit plays a role in the farce so be prepared. There are some very funny lines. Michel says, "Puking seems to have perked you up."
Both men show off their macho credentials by boasting about being gang members when they were kids. Bruno is accused of being a grass (informer). Michel becomes a "murderer" because he has gotten rid of the family's pet hamster, Nibbles, on the street. All of them are self-indulgent yuppies who easily get off the subject of the kids and into their yuppyish issues. Alain, a lawyer, is constantly talking on his cell phone until someone puts it out of commission.
It's a very clever, focused play, full of laughs. The play owes something to Absurdist traditions. The dialogue at times is inane and absurdist, ridiculous. The way the trouble intensifies is like the proliferation of chairs in Ionesco's famous play. The verbal slaughter that takes place on the stage makes clear the title. Deep meaning and insights? No, but, yes to stripping bare the pretensions and inner feelings of four self-absorbed spoiled adult brats who are probably raising monsters like themselves.