God of Carnage opens with weekend of wacky success

Photo by Emily DeShazer | The Collegian

The K-State theatre department showed audiences that parenthood doesn’t always mean maturity and marriage doesn’t always mean harmony.

K-State’s first production of the spring semester, the 2009 triple-Tony winning play “God of Carnage,” came alive last Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, bringing with it a cast full of energy and a display of messages about adulthood.

“I loved it,” Sandra Chastan, graduate student in theater,
said. “They were all great actors, all very talented.”

Set in Brooklyn, N.Y., “God of Carnage,” by Yasmina Reza, weaves the story of two sets of parents, Alan and Annette, (played by Clay Massingill, freshman in theater, and Dani Golway, sophomore in public relations), and Michael and Veronica, (played by Mark Young, junior in theater, and Amanda Garvey, senior in theater), as they come together to settle a dispute between their 11-year-old sons.

The night of civility and small-talk quickly unravels, exposing the weak spots in both relationships. But even the most disastrous of evenings does not pass without a hint of comedy, and the laughter and applause following each moment of calamity confirmed that the audience at Saturday night’s performance was certainly along for the ride.

“I feel really good about tonight,” Garvey said Saturday. “I think it went well.”

With no intermission, K-State’s “God of Carnage” runs anywhere from one hour to 75 minutes long, tasking the four-person cast to hit each moment of the play with energy and gusto without a break.

Director Jerry Jay Cranford, instructor of theater, said that while the script provides a structure, the actors and director must all make difficult choices.

When I started my research, I started researching the perception of the piece,” Cranford said. “Alongside of praise for the script and the show, more importantly they praised the four performances and what they brought to it. So it does become very important how these four people connect to one another, and how the director shapes the dynamics of the piece.”

Audience members for Saturday night’s performance found the dynamics to be just right. The crowd broke into applause several times throughout the performance, chuckling at the sights of Young imitating a puppy dog or Golway’s speeches after a bit too much rum.

I thought it was funny,” Abbey Lindholm, senior in veterinary medicine, said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was still better than my expectation.”

Tables turn quickly in the show from the beginning, with the audience questioning whose side each person is on. Massingill called the show “a verbal boxing match.”

“I didn’t know anything about the plot before I came, but it was interesting to see how the allies and enemies would change throughout the show,” Lindholm said. “They’d be friends one minute, and minutes later they’re throwing things at each other.”

Working through the show was an experience that members of the cast said they cherish and appreciate. Still, preparation didn’t come without challenges. Cranford said that a big step in realizing the production was getting the four actors to flesh out the 15-or-more yearlong relationships that their characters share.

“Age was difficult,” Massingill said. “Coming off as older was a challenge.”

Another hurdle the cast and crew of the show had to face were the snow days issued by K-State. Inclement weather robbed the show of its final dress rehearsal. The play opened Thursday night, though, as scheduled.

Spending time together since the middle of winter break has allowed the cast to tackle their challenges together.

“It was very much fun,” Massingill said. “I didn’t know any of them at the start, and now we’re close friends. Mark especially, I’ve become really close with him.”

Other performers said they found Cranford’s direction to be a highlight of the experience.

What’s fun about Jay is that he is a choreographer at heart and it’s very obvious in his blocking,” Garvey said. “More than anything, the people I’ve worked with throughout the last couple weeks have made this show one of my favorites to work on.”

Members of the Saturday night crowd were treated to a behind-the-scenes session immediately following the show. The audience included several high school students who auditioned for scholarships from the theater program. Cranford invited the scholarship auditioners and the rest of the audience to stay after the show to explain and exhibit the show’s most surprising and difficult special effect.

I really enjoyed them going through how it all works,” Lindholm said.

People who have yet to see the special effects of the show will still have an opportunity to do so. “
God of Carnage” will continue its run this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Mark A. Chapman Theatre in Nichols Hall.

“The special effects were really fun,” Chastan said, “but how much energy it must take to stand on stage the whole time, and never break character, that’s amazing.”