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By Kathy Carpenter

January 17, 2020 (La Mesa) - Lamplighters Theatre in La Mesa presents "God of Carnage." Written by Yasmina Reza and Directed  by Tyler Richard Hewes, “God of Carnage” is full of moral dilemmas. What is okay for one person outrages another. The result is hilarious--the kind of humor that we should not find funny but do.

The show opens after an 11-year-old boy hit another boy with a stick and knocked out two teeth. This should not be funny or taken lightly.  The hitter has a problem-or was he provoked? Still not justifiable in my book, but more complex. In the name of civility, the parents of the kid who was injured invite over the other parents to discuss the matter. At the beginning when the couples meet it's quite awkward. Neither couple knows what to say and they try to remain pleasant. Then everything goes downhill and it's everyone for themselves as they go from united couples to women vs men and opposite spouses teaming up against one another, with individuals even battling on their own against the other three characters at times.

The show gets funnier and funnier as it goes along. Warning this is a slice of life piece with no neatly wrapped-up-with-a bow ending. of what the final outcome will be with the boys.

The show takes place in the contemporary home of the Novaks, with white floors and walls, plus a colorful piece of abstract art on the wall. Red orange lighting is framed in multiple windows and there are a couple orange wall lights. A glass table with yellow tulips, a coffee table with lots of books, two orange chairs, a desk and couch with orange pillows round out the décor--the sterile kind of home with a touch of color popular when the show was written back in 2005.

Four talented actors handle the character-driven roles, which are so enriching to a story. One actress in the show was actually ill.  Heather Warren, the assistant director, filled her shoes. What a job. Even though she was on book, with her amazing acting you hardly noticed. I can't even imagine someone else doing a better job portraying the righteous Veronica Novak.

Michael Novak, was played by the extremely funny Randy Coull. I look forward to seeing him in more shows. Natalie Raleigh takes on the role of Annette, mother of the kid who did the hitting. She is invisible to her workaholic, attached-to-his-phone lawyer husband Alan, played by Mike Martin. The couple crushed their roles. The acting of these four actors was phenomenal. Watching them act was so realistic it was a real treasure.

In an interview with ECM,  director Hewes says, “For me, the biggest takeaway I would like the audience to leave with is the fragility of civility and the need to foster and model good behaviors, not only for the next generation but for ourselves.  There is something to be said for `fake it till you make it’ and that can be applied to public mores and civil discourse.  The couples in the play allow their public faces to fall, for various reasons, and then each indulge in a child-like venting of their spleens - giving into their most repugnant versions of themselves.”  

Photo, left: Director Tyler Hewes

He views the character Annette’s illness as a “metaphor for the dangers of hiding the true self behind a false mask.” Her challenge, throughout the second half of the piece, is “to be free of her self-censorship while retaining her civility. This is a task at which she fails SPECTACULARLY…and therein lies the fun,” Hewes states in an email to ECM.

One of the biggest applause moments come when Annette finally takes action to silence her husband’s cell phone, finding common ground with many in today’s technology and distraction-driven culture.  “Alan’s cell phone is the prime example of the outside world’s ability to distract us from what is most important, right in front of us,” Hewes concludes, noting that many can relate to wanting to end such interferences “be the distraction a cell phone, a television, a nattering neighbor, or any of the thousand other constant distractions that pull us each day.”

Why not start your theater year out right with plenty of laughter?

God Of Carnage continues at Lamplighters January 10th-February 9th, 2020



Up Next for Agatha Christie fans:  The Hollow