Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is having a moment. On the heels of its Tony Award-winning 2009 run on Broadway, the play has been popping up in stagings across the country, and Roman Polanski’s film adaptation, starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz, is still screening in multiplexes.
And now the dark comedy, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, arrives in Atlanta for a run at the Alliance Theatre. Directed by former associate artistic director Kent Gash, this Carnage casts African-American actors Crystal Fox, Jasmine Guy, Keith Randolph Smith and Geoffrey Darnell Williams as four squabbling parents who meet to discuss a violent incident between their two sons over the course of an evening that quickly goes off the rails, as allegiances shift, slurs (and worse) are hurled, and four nominally civilized adults bare their fangs and reveal the self-interested animals at their cores.
The Alliance’s casting is surely meant to strike a chord with Atlanta audiences, and a plot point concerning the atrocities in Darfur does take on an extra layer of resonance. But the universal ugliness at the heart of these four characters should prove familiar to any viewer, regardless of race, parenthood or marital status. God of Carnage has its critics, who accuse the play of manipulation, superficiality and various plot deficiencies. For most viewers, however, its greatest sin may be in its revelation of a truth most of us would rather ignore: “We have met the enemy,” in the words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “and he is us.”
God of Carnage runs through Feb. 4 at the Alliance Theatre. 404-733-5000. www.alliancetheatre.org.