God of Carnage Through September 22; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $10-$15. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996.
The simple setup behind God of Carnage—two couples meet to discuss what action should be taken after one of their sons hits the other with a branch, knocking out a couple of teeth—belies the complicated minefield of manners and marriage that underpins this comedy. Subtext carries the show, but there are moments of epic physical comedy, too. It should have everything, but Las Vegas Little Theatre’s production actually doesn’t have enough.
It asks the audience to ignore basic representational convention too often. I can usually shrug it off when a phone doesn’t actually ring onstage—but when an interrupting cell phone is as integral to characterization as it is in this play, it’s important to engage with that, and see what emotional drama erupts from the physical requirement of a script. At another moment, an actor waves a hair dryer around as if it’s working without even pretending to plug it in, its black plug limply hanging from its handle; another “sprays” perfume without actually pumping the bottle; and the play’s biggest comedic moment gets undercut when it’s hidden from sight. Understanding the elements of a script, recognizing the demands of performing in the representational style and finding solutions are all a director’s responsibilities, so I have no choice but to lay blame at the feet of Ela Rose.
As Veronica and Michael Novak, the couple whose child was injured, Daci Overby and T.J. Larsen have an easy grace and familiarity, but Overby needs to dial down her exaggerated expressions in spots, while Larsen could be a little sharper in his reactions. Mark Brunton and Stacia Zinkevich, as their high-flying antagonists, start out extremely reserved, and never completely break out of that mold. Brunton’s phone calls are funny, but lack a specificity that could take them over the top. Zinkevich sells the show’s most outrageous bit well and seems genuinely heartbroken by the end, but I wanted a deeper change in her physical comportment to match her character’s emotional journey.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but that laughter never completely masks the disappointment of lost opportunities.