The God of Carnage

“We are all capable of incredible empathy and utter disregard for others. It’s what makes us both beautiful and terrifying.”


The God of Carnage is a dark comedy written by Yasmina Reza, a renowned French playwright, and novelist. Originally titled “Le Dieu du Carnage,” it was first performed in 2006 and quickly gained international acclaim. It won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play and The Players at The Barker Playhouse have chosen this as their third production in their 115th season.

Set in modern-day society, The God of Carnage takes place in an affluent neighborhood. The story revolves around two couples, Alan and Annette Raleigh and Michael and Veronica Novak, who meet to discuss a fight that occurred between their respective sons. What begins as a civilized conversation quickly degenerates into chaos and hostility, revealing the underlying tensions and true personalities of the characters.

Through its witty dialogue and raw portrayal of human interactions, Yasmina Reza’s script presents a captivating examination of the fragile masks that we wear in our everyday lives. The God of Carnage delves deep into the complexities of marriage, friendship, and the dynamics of power. It explores how seemingly solid relationships can crumble under pressure, exposing the cracks in our carefully constructed lives. This examination of human nature offers a commentary on the fragility of social structures and the volatility of personal relationships. One of the central ideas presented in The God of Carnage is the belief that beneath the veneer of civilization, lies a primal instinct for violence and chaos.

Jeff Sullivan’s direction and vision for this play is concise and focused. There are minimal lighting queues and a  simple, colorful living room set that reveals a comfortable, well-heeled home of affluence without distracting from the dialogue of the play. The heavy lifting in this play is character development and Sullivan’s hand has molded four actors into believable characters that fill the stage in dense conversation.

As the discussion progresses, the four adults navigate through various layers of their lives and relationships. The unraveling of their facades exposes their individual flaws, insecurities, and hidden desires, creating a raw and uncomfortable atmosphere. The play explores themes such as social etiquette, interpersonal conflicts, parenting styles, deception, and the destructive powers of anger and resentment.

Alan Raleigh, played by David Crossley, is legal counsel to a pharmaceutical company. Although a guest in the Novak’s home and invited to “discuss” the altercation between both couples’ sons, Alan is unable to remain off his cell phone. He is constantly receiving updates from the pharmaceutical company that has brought to market a product that has fatal side effects. With telephone updates on the status of the marketing and legal nightmare that the company is facing, Alan attempts to minimize the PR damage as well as legal implications to the company. Every phone call is heard by both audience and the rest of the people in the room.  Crossely’s  Alan is glib, inconsiderate of any other person in the room, including his wife and his son, focused only on the company crisis and is a ruthless, legal shark. Bravo to Crossley for nailing this character.

Alan’s wife, Annette, played beautifully by the talented Joyce Leven, must endure Alan’s emotional, physical and psychological absence from their relationship as well as the parenting of their son. Annette is the only character that attempts to find common ground among the four adults in the room. However, as the play progresses, everyone begins to partake of “some very good rum,”  and as Annette becomes more inebriated, her veneer begins to crack culminating with a physical annihilation  of a tulip arrangement. She is both a hilarious and pathetic figure as her aloneness takes a physical and emotional toll on her.

Joel Sugarman’s, Michael Novak, thinks of himself  to be a “self-made, regular guy, salesman.”  But the underbelly of this character is pure apathy. Not just apathetic to the present situation in which the four couples have met, but apathetic to everything. There is an unfortunate incident regarding the Novak’s  pet hamster that is simply dumped out on the corner sidewalk by Michael in an effort to “free the rodent.”  Sugarman does a terrific job in never letting up on the emotional void of this character. The great dynamic here, is Michael’s total lack of caring juxtaposed with his wife, Veronica, the extreme opposite, who seemingly “cares” about everything.

It is in that index finger of Veronica Novak, portrayed by an amazing actor, Eve Kerrigan, which gives her whole character its presence on stage. That tell-tale index finger that appears often in the conversation when someone else is wrong, when someone else doesn’t quite understand to the depth in which Veronica understands and to allow everyone else in the room how high she sits on that self-righteous pedestal .  Afterall, Veronica has so much sensitivity and global understanding of the world’s suffering that she is authoring a book about the Darfur genocide. Veronica thrives on the control her holier than thou persona allows her. However, you can’t help but think how lonely it must be to be right all the time. Kerrigan’s portrayal of Veronica Novak is spot on!

The God of Carnage is a thought-provoking and intense exploration of human nature and social dynamics. The play dissects the complexities of marriage, friendship, and societal expectations, leaving the audience to contemplate the true nature of humanity and the consequences of suppressing our primal instincts. If you are a theater goer who enjoys character development and the many sides of the human condition, this is a play for you.

The play runs through the  weekend, Friday, February 2 and Saturday, February 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 4 at 2:00 p.m.

The Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, Providence.

For tickets or more information please call the box office at 401-273-0590 or

Tickets are $30.00 pp


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