The Richland Players' God of Carnage makes me almost ashamed to be a member of the educated professional class. The Tony Award-winning play revolves around a self-righteous twit of a woman, Veronica, who is an expert on art and conflict in Africa.
Her 11-year-old boy has been hurt in a playground slugfest with another boy. She invites the other boy's parents into her tasteful art- and book-filled apartment for an oh-so-civilized discussion about the situation. There is no question of a lawsuit; she just wants to be sure that the boy who hurt her son properly repents his misdeed. This is a woman who loves to harangue other people about what they've done wrong as she feeds them homemade pastries and coffee.
The other boy's perfectly-dressed parents make polite conversation for a while until Veronica becomes so irritating that sparks start to fly.
Veronica's husband Mike wants to side with the other couple because he can't stand his own wife. The other couple, Annette and Alan, want to make things right, but Veronica is too invested in lecturing everybody in the room to allow a practical solution. And Alan constantly interrupts the conversation to take phone calls as he manages a sordid legal deal on the side.
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All this sounds too close to real life to be enjoyable. The first few minutes of the play are frankly a little slow and a little too nicey-nice. But then, hang onto your hats. It starts with Annette's horrible grimaces. It then builds up from tart accusations through growling, two-fisted drinking, and then flat-out fighting and pungent swearing. It finishes off with gut-grabbing physicality and painful howls.
The acting is terrific. Michael Thomas' New York accent is fun and just right for a hardware salesman married to an art collector. Amy Lynne Darling as Veronica oozes gag-worthy political correctness.
Molly Holleran's disgusted facial expressions and agitated pacing are priceless. And Freddy Izaguirre, who always seems to inhabit the roles he plays so convincingly, is wonderful as Alan -- the self-involved and manipulative lawyer.
The set is lovely and convincing, with red Oriental carpets, leather furniture and piles of art books. Self-consciously tasteful touches are evident in details such as the pillows on the sofa.
The play is only an hour long. You'll enjoy this short and sweet effort by the Richland Players. But don't bring the children with you. The language and content is unsuitable for the younger set.
God of Carnage will be performed only once in the Tri-Cities, at 8 p.m. Feb. 22, in the studio at the Academy of Children's Theatre, 213 Wellsian Way' Richland. Admission is free, but donations are welcome, which will be used for travel expenses when The Players take this play to the statewide Kaleidoscope 2013 Community Theatre Festival on Feb. 28-March 3 in Bremerton.
*Nancy Welliver is a longtime supporter of the arts. She has worked at Hanford as an engineer and is a member of the Camerata Musica organization.