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Youngstown Playhouse adds `Carnage' performance

January 17, 2013 - Andy Gray
Due to popular demand, the Youngstown Playhouse has added a 7:30 p.m. Sunday show to its run of Yasmina Reza's play "God of Carnage," which is being staged in the Moyer Room.

Friday's performance is sold out, and only a few tickets remain for Saturday.

It's an excellent play and an excellent production. Here's the review that ran Sunday but wasn't posted online:

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Raleighs and the Novaks have a meeting because the Raleighs' son hit the Novaks' son with a stick. For the parents, words are the weapon of choice.

Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage" is equal parts vicious and hilarious as two couples' efforts to show how civilized they are and set an example for their animalistic children end up bringing out the savagery in everyone involved.

The intimacy of the Moyer Room at Youngstown Playhouse makes it feel as if the audience is in the living room with the couples as they start using words like a shiv as their ideals and relationships are threatened.

Reza's script is demanding; its success or failure rest on the strength of the cast and the actors' abilities to capture the idiosyncrasies of the individuals and their ability to work together as an ever-shifting unit as the on-stage battles go from couple vs. couple to men vs. women to spouse vs. spouse.

Director Johnny Pecano has assembled a talented one and keeps the action rooted in realism even as anger -- and alcohol -- help make the behavior more extreme.

Brandy Johanntges is a wicked delight as Veronica Novak, who organizes the meeting. She wears her education and her "civility" like a badge of honor, but her words and actions drip with condescension.

Her husband, Michael (Frank G. Martin), is a housewares wholesaler, and he brings his salesman persona home, trying to make everyone happy and find common ground. But every time he tries to agree with the Raleighs, his wife's veneer of congeniality starts to crack. Martin brings an appealing everyman quality to the role.

Alan Raleigh (James McClellan) can't even feign interest in this meeting and spends more time on the phone trying to manage damage control for a pharmaceutical client. McClellan brings a great smugness to Alan and creates a character that enjoys the fight, whether he's in the middle of it or instigating it between others.

Annette Raleigh (Holly Ceci) tries to take the meeting seriously, but Veronica's verbal jabs, her husband's ever-ringing cell phone and a stomach bug help to unleash her true feelings. And when the rum takes over, Ceci is at her funniest.

Pecano's direction emphasizes the humor in Reza's script without diminishing its dramatic impact. Some of the biggest laughs come from facial reactions that other characters can't see or other little bits of physical comedy that aren't on the page.

The Playhouse production is far more satisfying than the 2011 film version that featured four Oscar winners (director Roman Polanski and actors Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) and one Oscar nominee (John C. Reilly).

It's a small venue, and there only are two (now three) more performances. I wouldn't wait to make reservations.

"God of Carnage" will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, Youngstown. Tickets are $17 for adults and $14 for students and senior citizens. For reservations or more information, call 330-788-8739.


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