Don't be misled by the name. There are a lot of laughs in "God of Carnage."
"The title doesn't make it sound very funny, but it's hilarious," John Pecano said.
Pecano will direct the Tony Award-winning play, which opens Friday at the Youngstown Playhouse's Moyer Room as part of its Griffith-Adler Actors Series.
The script by Yazmina Reza, who also won the Tony Award for Best Play for "Art," focuses on a meeting between two married couples whose children were involved in an altercation at school. Their interactions start civilly, but as they negotiate the wording and the location of a formal apology, it disintegrates into a verbal smackdown that leaves all parties and their relationships emotionally bloodied.
Before it's over, it becomes a battle of couple vs. couple, men vs. women and spouse vs. spouse.
The stage version starred Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, and Roman Polanski directed a 2011 film version starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz.
When You?Go WHAT: "God of Carnage" WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Jan. 18-19 WHERE: Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, Youngstown HOW MUCH: $17 adults and $14 students and senior citizens. For reservations or more information, call 330-788-87
Pecano wanted to direct the play last season, but it wasn't available to community theaters.
"The rights got pulled, I'm assuming due to the movie," he said. "I read the script and really liked it. Its dialogue is very natural, and the characters are very real. They have good traits; they all have bad traits. It's satirical and very funny, but in a realistic way."
During the auditions, Pecano said he was looking for actors who would complement each other and be believable as married couples.
"To me, casting is 90 percent of (the work)," he said. "I ended up with two veterans of the stage (James McClellan and Brandi Johanntges) and two newer people (Holly Ceci and Frank Martin), but the newer people were on the same level as the veterans. They all love the script and take it very seriously."
And Pecano said he believes the plays is well-suited to the intimacy of the Moyer Room performance space.
"There's a very voyeuristic feel to the show, and in the Moyer Room that comes across perfectly," he said. "You get the feeling that, 'I'm hearing this discussion, hearing this argument between these people, and maybe I shouldn't be hearing it'."