Arts & Events

Around & About Theater: A Mini-Review of 'God of Carnage' at Altarena Playhouse

By Ken Bullock
Thursday January 24, 2013 - 05:10:00 PM

Altarena Playhouse is celebrating its 75th season, opening it with a hilarious production of Yasmina Reza's 'God of Carnage,' directed by Sue Trigg, through February 19, and their new company library-history exhibit, including programs, posters, reviews and photos for nearly 400 productions since its founding. 

'God of Carnage,' by the author of 'Art' (which Altarena produced a few years back and the Planet reviewed, begins with two couples speaking civilly, if tentatively, about their kids rough-housing and its consequences, but devolves into kind of a mutual war dance, an adult (and marital) melt-down, with unusual pairings as to who takes whose side about what. 

Staged as a gradually knock-down farce, choreographed exquisitely by Trigg (whose 'Death of a Salesman' at Altarena was one of the theatrical highlights of the last decade hereabouts), the ridiculously funny, gamey dialogue and body English is buoyed up by the fine ensemble performance by Paul Araquistain and JanLee Marshall as the Raleighs, Ben Ortega and Sharon Huff Robinson as the Novaks. 

The cast jumps through the hoops, including moments of slapstick, and comes out with lines like: "We tried to be nice. We brought tulips. My wife tried to pass me off as a liberal."  

The translation from Reza's French for london and New York satge by Christopher hampton ('dangerous Liaisons') can't quite capture the very French rapid denouement and evaporating ending. But the production triumphs, with admirable players and Trigg's moment by moment steady hand at keeping the comedy in focus--and all of it played in the round! 

Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 (and Thursday evening, February 14) at Altarena playhouse, 1409 High Street, Alameda. $21-$24. 523-1553;