Kamloops Players tackles dark comedy in God of Carnage

Kamloops Players tackles dark comedy in God of Carnage

The Kamloops Players theatre company has tackled hundreds of plays in its 47 years - plenty of light-hearted comedies, uproarious follies, classic dramas and murder mysteries.

But, perhaps none has challenged the troupe quite like this next one.

On Friday, May 3, the troupe opens the dark comedy God of Carnage, a play so searing in its satire, so insightful in its analysis of human behaviour, it will have audiences laughing one minute, wincing the next. And pondering the characters and the story long after the curtain comes down.

"The material, for us, is a little bit more cutting edge," said director Sharon Huuha, during a rehearsal earlier this week.

"It has language and it's totally - what's the word? - politically incorrect. Some of the things they say people would be going, 'Oh. Oh!' "

God of Carnage is one of French playwright Yasmina Reza's best-known plays and among the most popular and acclaimed plays of the past 10 years. It debuted on Broadway in 2009 (after being translated for the American stage) and won a Tony award. It was also turned into a film, Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.

The story begins after a playground fight between two boys.

Their parents meet to discuss the incident, and what begins as a civil conversation soon plunges into an evening of name-calling, tantrums and all-around acrimony - with dialogue that ventures into misogyny, racism and homophobia.

"At first, when I read it, I thought, 'Oh, it says it's a comedy,' and then you read it and go, 'Where's the comedy?' It's not like the kind of comedy I'm used to," said Huuha.

In the cast, Matt Alexander plays Alan, a lawyer married to Annette (played by Cherie Poelzer). Annette's vague job description has her in "wealth management."

The couple meets at the Brooklyn home of Michael, a self-made wholesaler, and his wife Veronica, a writer - played by Laurel Brewer and Kim Arklie, respectively.

As the evening unfolds, layers of each character's darker personality begin to emerge, leading to a few shocking moments in dialogue and action.

"She's very put together on the outside," said Poelzer of her character, Annette.

"She tries to smooth everything over, tries to make sure that everything's happy, happy! And then she snaps . . . . Things aren't always as they appear, put it that way."

Character duality is playwright Reza's specialty. In an interview last year with Britain's Guardian newspaper, she said, "What motivates me most is writing about people who are well brought up and yet, underneath that veneer, they break down. Their nerves break down. It's when you hold yourself well until you just can't any more, until your instinct takes over. It's physiological."

For stage veteran Arklie, the role of Veronica, who is not as mild-mannered as she appears, isn't exactly a departure from her previous roles - a wicked witch, among them.

"I play nasty women quite a bit," she said with a laugh.

"What's unusual is for me to make it to the end of the play and not be killed."

Arklie and the cast began rehearsals in February and are confident they've nailed the nuances and complexities of their God of Carnage characters. So is their director.

Audiences can judge for themselves when the show opens May 3 at 8 p.m. at Stage House Theatre, 422 Tranquille Rd.

The show continues May 4 at 2 and 8 p.m., returning May 9 to 11 at 8 p.m. before moving on to Theatre B.C.'s Okanagan Zone festival in Vernon mid-month.

Tickets are $15 at Kamloops United Church, 421 St. Paul St., Andrena's Books behind Superstore, Enchanted Tea Cup, 421 Tranquille Rd. and at the door.

Again, this is a show for adult audiences. Some may find the language and subject matter offensive.

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