Here’s something that I’m gonna do that it feels like I have not done for a while…write the review of the show on THE SAME DAY as I see the show! I know, right? I used to do it all the time, but lately I’ve been wimping out like a spaz and, like, going to bed (I feel your mocking judgement, and I deserve it and more) or some other weak shit. But this time it’s in my favour…I won’t have any reviews to write tomorrow, and if I get this one done tonight, then I get the day off tomorrow! Well, except for the drudgery, but that’s just one of those things you can’t avoid, right?
Good thing I’m still plenty buzzed ABOUT the show I saw tonight, so it shouldn’t be a problem working up some writin’ mojo even at this almost-late hour. And this one was exciting on a few different levels, not the least of which was that it was the long-awaited return of Third Wall Theatre after a sadly lengthy absence, not only to the stage itself, but the GCTC mainstage at that! Shoot, I don’t think they’ve played that room since, what, AS YOU LIKE IT? Is that right? Here’s how long ago that was…I brought my girlfriend to that show. Let THAT sink in.
But seriously folks, I was stoked for the show tonight, Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE, already having been given the movie treatment by ol’Polanski himself. And Third Wall head honcho James Richardson pulled out all the stops for this one, from an all-star cast to guest director Ross Manson (AD of Volcano outta Toronto). Hell, even the Assistant Director on this show, Tom Davis, helmed the great MAHMOUD at last year’s Toronto Fringe, which I consider myself lucky to have seen…a solid pedigree going in. And on entering the theatre, the sight of the sweet, sweet Brian Smith set gave me giddy chills. Stark and elegant, it looked like the ideal setting for Reza’s tale of the stripping of civilization’s thin veneer. Now onto that supercool cast…
Two sets of parents meet up after a schoolyard altercation between their boys leaves one child in the hospital in Paris. The Vallons, Michel and Veronique (John Koensgen and Mary Ellis) invite the Reilles, Annette and Alain (Kristina Watt and Todd Duckworth) to hash things out in a polite, congenial manner. Coffee is served, expensive art books are displayed, platitudes are offered up. And, slowly but surely, nerves are frayed, veiled insults are trotted out, and Alain’s damn cellphone never seems to stop ringing. Before long, the recriminations are flying along with the bile (literally), terrible truths are revealed, and the children are starting to look like the civilized ones.
There’s plenty going on beneath the surface in Reza’s tragicomedy of manners (or lack thereof), and this cast comprised of Ottawa’s acting elite do an unforgettable job bringing it all up for us to see. Mary Ellis as the haughty and steadfast moral center Veronique, John Koensgen as buttoned-down businessman (with a barbaric heart) Michel, Kristina Watt as ever-polite but fierce Annette, and Todd Duckworth as slimy lawyer with a philosophical bent Alain…everyone is pitch perfect. The staging, boxed in almost claustrophobically, is constantly moving and never dull, and the script is a joy from the first word. A couple of the more violent outbursts didn’t really work for me, but those were the only weak spots I could find in an otherwise amazing show, and one that in any just universe will have Third Wall packing that house from now until the end of the run early next month. Kudos again for the choice of Manson as director, I think he did an incredible job bringing these actors and this script together into something this cool. Duplicity, violence and the fall of civilization haven’t looked this good in a while. Peace, love and sou,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)