If you've ever been to a kids' sporting event where the parents made fools of themselves, you'll relate to “God of Carnage,” opening Sept. 6 at First Presbyterian Theater.
Because as many of us unfortunately know, a kid's bad behavior often pales in comparison to the example set by the parents.
In “God of Carnage,” written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, two sets of parents meet to work things out after their sons get involved in a playground fight. As the parents discuss the incident, the play devolves into what Director David Schuler describes as a “modern comedy of manners.”
“What starts happening is they start picking on one another, allegiances switch,” Schuler said. Soon the spouses are turning on each other. “Their behavior becomes petty and sarcastic,” he said.
Described as a dark comedy, “God of Carnage” has an R rating for adult language and situations. “You find yourself laughing, and then two minutes later you say, 'Oh. Maybe I shouldn't be laughing at that,'” Schuler said.
More than just a play about parents behaving badly, Schuler sees it as a play that “delves into what marriage is all about,” as seen through the eyes of these two couples.
“It's a very dark, very, very funny satire on modern middle-class marriage,” he said. “(Reza) certainly comes down pretty hard on marriage in making fun of it.”
Schuler believes Reza “is trying to say to us, 'Look at your behavior, and when it starts to get ridiculous just step back a moment.'”
The play also shows how parents influence children, and not always in a good way.
“Why should we expect children to behave any better than we do when we model behavior for them?” said Thom Hofrichter, First Presbyterian Theater managing artistic director. “In some ways, you do become your parents, whether you want to or not.”
Hofrichter and his real-life wife, Nancy Kartholl, play one of the couples in “God of Carnage,” and spouses Jay and Melissa Duffer play the other couple. Jay Duffer is Huntington University Theater Department chair. The Duffers appear courtesy of Actors Equity, the labor union for actors.
Schuler said “God of Carnage,” which premiered on Broadway in 2008, has taken regional theater “by storm.” It's an ensemble piece, with all four actors being nominated for Tony awards when the show played on Broadway.