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Parental conflict turns hilariously ugly in 'God of Carnage'

By: Judi Straughan

 | Mar 26, 2014 - 9:31 AM |
Stephen Guy-McGrath gets a slap from Ramona Milano, who plays his wife, in ‘God of Carnage,’ which opens March 27. Photo by Arron Pickard.

Stephen Guy-McGrath gets a slap from Ramona Milano, who plays his wife, in ‘God of Carnage,’ which opens March 27. Photo by Arron Pickard.

Rod Ceballos, guest director of the Sudbury Theatre Centre’s latest production has a rule of thumb for casting comedies like Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage.”

“Each actor has to be willing to look ugly, both physically and emotionally,” he said.

For some of us, that would simply be a bad hair day coupled with a zit. For Ceballos, it goes deeper than that.

As he says, the story told in “God of Carnage” is really quite simple. It amounts to two monied, upper- middle-class couples — the Raleighs and the Novaks — meeting to discuss the physical altercation between their 11-year-old sons.

Henry Novak has suffered two broken incisors at the end of Benjamin Raleigh’s stick. The Novaks simply want a quick resolution and to have the Raleighs admit certain things, in the Novaks best interests, of course.

Add a few glasses of rum, and, as Ceballos says, “all hell breaks loose.”

And what’s this got to do with ugly?

“In a way,” he said, “each of these four characters feels entitled to getting what they want in their everyday lives. Watch out if they don’t. Comedy happens when people don’t get what they want yet continue to ardently pursue it.”

The comedy is so fresh and clever it received Broadway’s Tony Award for best play in 2009, as well as the Sir Laurence Olivier Award for best comedy.

“The play was written in French first, then translated into British English and then adapted to American English,” Ceballos said. “In French, it plays much like a Molière comedy, filled with larger-than-life characters and moving at a fast pace.”

Ceballos keeps the audience riveted, orchestrating his vivacissimo pace with an extraordinary cast.

“I’ve only worked with one of the cast members before (Katherine McLeod), but I knew the other three were perfect risk-takers for this play,” he said.

Besides McLeod, the play features Ramona Milano, Andy Trithardt and Stephen Guy-McGrath. Audiences will lean into the play as they enjoy the topsy-turvey ride.

“Some audience members might be upset with the characters, and that’s okay too,” Ceballos said. “It’s a human comedy exploring how the eccentricities of life are examined. Reactions aren’t always pretty.”

Quite simply, God of Carnage is just plain clever, funny and unforgettable. It plays at the Sudbury Theatre Centre from March 27 to April 6.

Judi Straughan is the education co-ordinator at Sudbury Theatre Centre.

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