Early this year, a film directed by Oscar-winner (and US fugitive) Roman Polanski will be released in theaters. It stars Oscar-winners Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as well as Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly. It’s called Carnage and it’s based on the play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. This January, on the Avenue of the Arts, the Huntington Theatre Company will be putting on a production of Reza’s original play.
So how does a humble theater company compete with a bushel of Oscar material and a Hollywood budget?
Director Daniel Goldstein isn’t too worried. In fact: “I hadn’t even thought about it,” he says, “until everyone started asking me.”
To him, God of Carnage is written so explicitly for the stage, he’s “skeptical as to the feasibility” of a film adaptation.
“They’re very different things. It’s meant to be experienced live, more as a conversation you’re involved in, as opposed to something you just watch. It’s not cinematic. We’re stuck in one place.”
The play centers on two sets of parents whose sons have an altercation on the playground at school. Ostensibly meeting to discuss their children, the parents quickly dissolve into their own childishness and, by the end, downright deplorable behavior.
God of Carnage takes place in real time in one setting, and there isn’t an intermission. Thus, the actors must work in concert with each other for the play to work.
As Goldstein puts it, “it’s a four-person symphony.”
Therefore, the importance of great actors filling the play’s ensemble couldn’t be underestimated. Throughout its production history (beginning in Zurich in 2006, moving to London in 2008 and then to Broadway in 2009), God of Carnage has attracted the very best, from Ralph Fiennes and Janet McTeer to Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, Hope Davis—not to mention the aforementioned actors in the upcoming film.
Goldstein’s own cast of Johanna Day, Brooks Ashmanskas, Stephen Bogardus and Christy Pusz is indeed, impressive. Three are Tony and/or Drama Desk Award nominees and Day was in the Broadway production of Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, which, for me personally, was one of the greatest theater experiences of my life.
So what does Goldstein, who recently became a father, think of the parents’ behavior in the play? And how does it affect his newfound fatherhood?
“Oh, this is an hour and twenty minutes of people behaving really, really badly. The play isn’t a comment on parenting but how we interact as people as a society—with disdain or lack of compassion. Parenting is a metaphor to bring a level of understanding.”
“That’s what art is meant to do. Show us a little bit more about what it is about what it is to be a person.”
“But I’ve never heard of anyone behaving this badly. They take it to a whole new level.”
GOD OF CARNAGE
PRESENTED BY THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY