The Long Islander Review: Characters Unravel In Dark Comedy, ‘God Of Carnage,’ At Engeman Theater

February 11, 2016

By: Janee Law
jlaw@longislandergroup.com

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport was roaring with laughter Thursday night as members of the audience witnessed the unraveling chaos between two sets of parents in the popular international comedy, “God Of Carnage.”

Written by Yasmina Reza, the dark hour and a half comedy that’s composed of a single scene is produced and directed by Engeman’s Richard Dolce, who incorporates intense energy and action into the show.

With only four actors in its cast, the play explores the internal and external struggles that couples face. The intense story of parents coming together to solve a fight between their sons reveals that the childrens’ problems are a reflection of their own.

At first, Alan (Chris Kipiniak) and his wife Annette (Alet Taylor) embody the overworked husband and passive wife, while Veronica (Nancy Lemenager) and her husband Michael (Mickey Solis) display characteristics of an overbearing wife and a submissive husband.

As the story unfolds, so do the characters. Roles begin to reverse as they push each other’s buttons and, when alcohol is added to the mix, the meeting spirals into madness as characters turn on one another, demonstrating ill-mannered, childish behavior.

The scene starts out with the parents stiffly sitting to discuss the situation between their sons. The play’s intensity is heightened by Veronica’s character; she takes notes as she paces back and forth, speaking in an automated voice.

Alan thickens the tense situation with his crude behavior, taking phone calls throughout the show, chomping down on his food like a savage and delivering the first of many f-bombs.

Displaying wide eyes, boiling faces and screaming in anger, Alan and Veronica demonstrate great chemistry acting opposite one another. Michaeland Annette are also similar in that both characters started out passive and become aggressive when pushed over the edge by their spouses.

The comic relief also grows as characters unravel under Michael’s sarcasm, Alan’s total disregard for others, Veronica’s quick wit and Annette’s childlike actions.

In the scene where they become intoxicated, Taylor, playing Annette, takes the stage in a dramatic performance as the drunken wife hysterically mocking her husband to show her frustrations.

Audience member Debbie Biggs of Greenlawn said that scene was one of her favorites because the actors were “hysterical.”

Another audience member, Cecily Frankum, said she loves “a dark kind of comedy.”

“It was a really good ensemble and they played really well with each other,” Frankum, of Huntington Station, said.

Chris Kipiniak, who plays the character Alan, said he enjoyed playing a character that’s unlike himself.

“It certainly is a lot of energy but… it’s a lot of fun to play a high energy character,” Kipiniak said. “It’s an excellent play. It’s nice to be working with people who are different than you and have a different style of working and I think that it makes it exciting. It’s been a lot of fun.”

“God of Carnage” runs at the Engeman Theater through March 6. Showtimes: Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets are $59-$64.

The Long Islander: Paying it Forward

The Long Islander

February 6, 2016

Donna Galluccio, Director of the Ecumenical Lay Council’s food pantry, and Pastor Tim Hoyt of First Presbyterian Church in Northport, dropped by the Engeman Theater earlier this week to receive funds donated by theater audiences over the holiday season. Theater owners Kevin O’Neill, managing director, and Richard Dolci [sic], producer and artistic director, turned over $35,000 which was collected over the holiday season by passing the basket during show intermissions.

“We raise funds every year and are happy to be able to support the food pantry and church,” O’Neill said.

It’s more of a story of mutual support. The church has for the past decade allowed the theater’s valet parking operation to use its parking lot on show night, O’Neill explained. The church also houses the Ecumenical Lay Council’s food pantry.

“Pastor Tim is a progressive thinker. He is good enough to let us use the church parking lot at night and he’s also good enough to provide space for the food pantry,” O’Neill said, adding the pantry provides assistance to 160 families a week.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport Announces its 10th Anniversary Season

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY) – The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport (Kevin O’Neill, Managing Director and Richard T. Dolce, Producing Artistic Director) is thrilled to announce its 10th Anniversary Season. To celebrate the occasion, the 2016-2017 season brings you six exciting musicals!

 

Kicking off the season is the East Coast Regional Premiere of MAMMA MIA!  Over 60 million people all around the world have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make MAMMA MIA! the ultimate feel-good show! This tale full of sun and fun unfolds on a Greek island paradise when, on the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years before. The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship.  July 21, 2016 – September 11, 2016.

 

Ring in the election year with 1776, the classic Tony Award®-winning musical about how the founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and gave birth to a new nation. A unique show that presents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin in all their fractious, fascinating complexity, 1776 features beloved songs such as “Sit Down, John,” “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men,” and “He Plays the Violin.” The show will remind you of how far America has come – and how little we’ve changed.  September 22, 2016 – November 6, 2016.

 

Celebrate the holiday season with MARY POPPINS. Based on the classic Disney film, this is the story of a mysterious nanny who magically appears at the Banks household in Edwardian London to care for Jane and Michael Banks. Adventure abounds as she whisks them away to meet dancing chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and an array of colorful characters. Featuring an irresistible story, breathtaking dance numbers and beloved songs such as the Academy Award-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” audiences will have a “Jolly Holiday” with Mary and discover a world where “Anything Can Happen” if you let it.  November 17, 2016 – January 1, 2017.

 

Beat the winter blues with THE FULL MONTY.  The 10-time Tony Award® nominee is filled with honest affection, engaging melodies and a raucous mix of razor-sharp humor and toe-tapping pizazz … not to mention the most highly anticipated closing number in Broadway history! In need of quick cash and low on prospects, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers come up with the outrageous idea to put on a strip act after seeing their wives’ enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales. As they prepare for the big night, working through their fears, self-consciousness and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.  January 19, 2017 – March 5, 2017.

 

JEKYLL & HYDE brings to life the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson, complemented by a breathtaking score from Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse. An evocative tale of two men, one a doctor, passionate and romantic and the other, a terrifying madman, and two women, one beautiful and trusting and the other, beautiful and trusting only herself. Both unaware of his dark secret. Their story unfolds in this gripping musical thriller resplendent with a sumptuous score including the unforgettable, “This is the Moment,” “Someone Like You” and “A New Life.”  March 16, 2017 – April 30, 2017.

 

To close the season, the John W. Engeman Theater presents Broadway favorite OKLAHOMA!  This is the show that set the standard for all future musicals by incorporating music, lyrics and dance into a well-crafted serious story. OKLAHOMA! spins the tale of the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma at the turn of the twentieth century. This provides a colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Nominated for 7 Tony Awards® and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, it’s filled with some of the most recognized songs in theatre including “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and of course, the resounding “Ok-la-hom-a.”  May 11, 2017 – June 25, 2017.

 

 

 

Season tickets are now on sale. Single tickets will go on sale beginning April 1, 2016.

Season tickets and single tickets may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting www.engemantheater.com, or at the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.  To purchase Season Tickets and Gift Cards please contact the Box Office directly.  For group rates or to host an event at the John W. Engeman Theater, please contact the Group Sales Department at 631-261-9700 ext. 23.  For information on advertising in our Programs or in our Lounge, please contact the Advertising Sales Department at 631-261-9700 ext. 22.  The Theater is also home to the John W. Engeman Theater Studio of the Performing Arts, offering classes and camp programs for children; for more information call 631-261-9700 ext. 25.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting our actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, Quality Theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

Long Island Press Review: Comedy of Manners: God of Carnage Debuts at Northport’s Engeman Theater

Review: God of Carnage

By: Elise Pearlman

The internationally acclaimed God of Carnage is possibly the most unique theatrical offering that I have seen at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater. The dark farcical comedy makes for uproarious pandemonium and laughter, and the audience (myself included) simply loved it. It is so good that you might want to see it more than once.

French playwright Yasmina Reza hones in on one of the universal fears of parenthood—that your child will be hurt by, or might hurt, another child. The play, originally written in Reza’s native tongue and translated into English by Christopher Hampton, has captured the imagination of theatergoers around the world.

After its debut performance in 2006, God of Carnage made its way to London where it received the Olivier Award for Best New Play of the Year. Its 2009 stint on Broadway boasting a stellar cast, including James Gandolfini, garnered three Tony Awards. Since then, it has graced stages in Spain, Ireland, Serbia and Croatia, to name a few.

The play is set in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. After another boy breaks two of their 11-year-old son’s teeth during a playground brawl, Annette and Michael go where angels fear by inviting the parents of aggressor to their home to discuss the incident. Although we never meet the boys, Henry and Benjamin, whose antics ignite the fuse, it is the parents who entertain us with their unexpected emotional explosions.

This unlikely rendezvous is the brainchild of Veronica, an art aficionado with a forthcoming book on the Darfur. Her husband, Michael, is a wholesale distributor of household goods. The other set of parents are Alan, a well-to-do lawyer with international clientele and Annette, who simply says that she is into wealth management.

It all starts out with polite, amicable conversation in Annette and Michael’s posh living room. In the name of peaceful coexistence, mouthwatering clafouti, a fruity French dessert, is served and expensive yellow tulips adorn vases.

Yet these niceties cannot mask the fact that the couples are understandably very wary of each other and looking for holes in each others’ polished façades. The best laid plans go horribly astray as the meeting progresses and at a delightfully dizzying pace.

It seems that no clafouti, no matter how delicious, can pacify the god of carnage, whom Alan explains has reigned supreme since the dawn of time and unleashes our basest and most primitive instincts.

Alan turns out to be right. In short order, the thin veil of civility is pierced, and the couples are at each other’s throats. Reza’s script is replete with clever, hilarious surprises and shifting marital allegiances that animate the set, especially after a bottle of primo rum is uncorked. Kudos to Richard Dolce for his impeccable directing of this talented cast whose performances requires split second comedic timing. This is ensemble work at its best.

Which is the funniest scenario? I’ll hint at them. Who had done a hamster wrong? What happens after Annette—understandably a bundle of nerves—upchucks on a collection of Veronica’s treasured coffee table books displayed like window dressing in the living room? How do the characters change after imbibing that primo rum?

Nancy Lemenager is ideal as the highbrow art lover who has unrealistic expectations about human nature and does not recognize a highly combustible situation when she sees one. Mickey Solis is hilarious as Michael, Veronica’s polar opposite, a man who proudly announces that he is “not a member of polite society,” but rather a Neanderthal.

Alan (Chris Kipiniak) skillfully fits the bill as the prototypical lawyer who is welded to his cell phone and more concerned with advising a pharmaceutical company on their defense against charges of a dangerous drug than dealing with his son’s conduct. His wife, Annette (Alet Taylor), who first appears to be the most restrained of the foursome, is emboldened and comes out fighting after some of that rum enters her system. It made for some very funny and feel-good moments.

Stephen Dobay’s set—decorated with the minimalist flair—makes it the perfect venue for maximal action. Showcased is a large-scale wooden sculpture created from found objects à la Louise Nevelson, one of the most influential and distinguished sculptors of the 20th century. Painted a monochromatic dark gray, the disparate pieces that compose the sculpture become unified textural content. Splashes of red, white and black further enliven the room’s décor.

It is pure eye candy. Bravo, Mr. Dobay!

God of Carnage runs through March 6. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 250 Main St, Northport, by calling 261-2900 or by visiting engemantheater.com.

Broadway World Review: The Engeman’s GOD OF CARNAGE

Review: The Engeman’s GOD OF CARNAGE

By: Melissa Giordano

Having seen a previous less-than-stellar local production of Yasmina Reza’s Tony winning play God Of Carnage, I’m thrilled that Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre has added it to their season this year. Leave it to The Engeman to redeem a show. This intelligent and well-executed incarnation runs through March 6th at the gorgeous Northport venue.

Engeman’s Producing Artistic Director, Richard T. Dolce, wonderfully directs the four person cast in the one act comedy. The tale centers on two couples meticulously discussing an altercation their sons had at school. In turn, as the show progresses, we find the parents becoming increasingly juvenile and belligerent. Of course, that is partly due to the rum that was offered as refreshments.

The first couple of the Broadway caliber ensemble consists of Alet Taylor as Annette, who is in “wealth management” (her husband’s wealth, that is) and Chris Kipiniak (Broadway: Metamorphoses, Macbeth) and Alan, an always-on-the-damn-cellphone corporate lawyer. It is their son that allegedly did the assaulting. The second couple is Nancy Lemenager (Broadway: Chicago, Movin’ Out, et. al.) as Veronica, an author, and Mickey Solis as Michael, a houseware wholesaler. They all work incredibly well off each other and completely let loose particularly with the childish shenanigans.

It seems the most important thing you must have is a very strong comedic cast to mount this show. The Engeman’s fantastic company delivers superbly as expressed by the enthusiastic sold out audience. The chemistry is apparent and its relatability seems to be another reason why this is such a well-received piece. You regularly see parents wrongfully defend their “little angels” and the parents end up looking as bad as the children.

Mr. Dolce’s creative team is just as outstanding as the cast. Set in the living room of Veronica and Michael’s home, Stephen Dobay’s beautiful design, enhanced stunningly by Driscoll Otto’s lighting, consists of a high back wall filled with brick-a-brack and many books with several tables and couches perfectly positioned on the stage for the upscale Brooklyn home.

And so, God Of Carnage, is indeed another hit for Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre. A wonderful company and hilarious story make for a wonderful night of theatre.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

God Of Carnage is presented by the John W. Engman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through March 6th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Yasmina Reza, Directed by RICHARD T. DOLCE, Scenic Design by STEPHEN DOBAY, Costume Design by TRISTAN RAINES, Lighting Design by DRISCOLL OTTO, Sound Design by LAURA SHUBERT, Casting by WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, LLC, Stage Management by FRAN RUBENSTEIN

Staring CHRIS KIPINIAK, NANCY LEMENAGER, MICKEY SOLIS, and ALET TAYLOR

Photo by Michael DeCristofaro; NANCY LEMENAGER, MICKEY SOLIS, ALET TAYLOR, CHRIS KIPINIAK

The John W. Engeman Theater Raises $35,000 for Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry of Northport and First Presbyterian Church of Northport

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY – February 3, 2016) – On Wednesday, February 3, Richard T. Dolce and Kevin J. O’Neill, owners of the John W. Engeman Theater presented a check to Chairperson Donna Galluccio of the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry of Northport and Pastor Tim Hoyt-Duncan of the First Presbyterian Church of Northport with money raised in support of the Food Pantry.

 

Following each performance of Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical, cast members collected donations for the Food Pantry. In total, $35,000 was collected during the run of the 2015 holiday production.

 

O’Neill stated that this fundraising effort represents an ongoing commitment to give back to the communities of Northport and greater Long Island. This is the second year that the Engeman Theater has raised funds for the Food Pantry and the First Presbyterian Church of Northport, which hosts the Food Pantry.

 

Since it opened nearly ten years ago, the Engeman Theater has had a partnership with the First Presbyterian Church, allowing theater patrons to have their cars valet parked to the church parking lot. “This partnership is vital to the existence of the theater,” said O’Neill, who stressed the importance of working together with local organizations and businesses to support the community and economy of Downtown Northport.

 

The Engeman Theater also receives support from Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System) for its Mainstage series and Bethpage Federal Credit Union for it Children’s Theater series, in the form of multi-year corporate sponsorships.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting our actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, Quality Theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

Times Beacon Record Review: ‘Junie B. Jones, The Musical’ takes on Northport

Review: ‘Junie B. Jones, The Musical’ takes on Northport

By Rita J. Egan

“Junie B. Jones, The Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past Saturday to an audience filled with young children eager to see their favorite literary characters in the flesh, and with a fun, lively show, the cast did not disappoint.

The musical, based on the children’s book series by Barbara Park, follows the adventures of Junie B. Jones as she tackles life’s little obstacles she finds along the way in first grade. Among the many challenges she faces are losing her best friend, Lucille, to twins Camille and Chenille, finding out she needs glasses, and being unable to participate in the big kickball tournament. However, with the help of her family and friends, and jotting everything down in her Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal, the endearing redhead figures everything out and learns that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade.

Kate Keating is youthful and charming as the main character, Junie. As lead on many of the numbers, her clear soprano voice is perfect for revealing the story through song, and she easily draws the young audience in as she talks directly to them in a number of scenes.

Playing the role of mother, as well as fellow first-graders Grace and Sheldon, is Suzanne Mason whose stage presence as always is a strong one. The actress especially shines as the awkward, stuffy-nosed Sheldon, and she elicited loud giggles during a scene where Sheldon, ready to play the cymbals at the kickball tournament, experiences stage fright. Mason convincingly delivers the song “Sheldon Potts’ Halftime Show” as if she were a child herself.

Joshua Cahn plays Mr. Scary, Daddy and Gladys Gutzman, and it’s as Gutzman, the cafeteria lady, that Cahn takes center stage. The way he delivers the role is reminiscent of Edna Turnblad from “Hairspray,” and with funny lines and a cute dance number with Keating, he received well-deserved laughs and giggles from the audience members.

Michael Verre tackles dual roles as Junie’s new friend Herb and one of the twins, Chenille. While Verre is sweet as Herb, particularly during the number with Keating, “You Can Be My Friend,” he is hilarious as Chenille, where he good-naturedly dons a wig and dress, and gracefully sings and dances along with Camille and Lucille during the number “Lucille, Camille, Chenille” to the delight of the audience.

Jennifer Casey as Camille and Jose, Allie Eibeler as Lucille and Lennie, and Alyson Clancy as May and Bobbie Jean handle their role changes seamlessly, and no matter what part they are playing, effortlessly add to the fun and high energy of the musical.

Written by Marcy Heisler, with music by Zina Goldrich, “Junie B. Jones” features upbeat, fun-filled numbers that are perfect for a musical geared toward young children. Stand out songs in the first act include the opening number “Top-Secret Personal Beeswax” where Junie tells the audience all about her new journal, and at the end of the act, “Now I See,” where, with the help of her friends, Junie begins to like her new glasses. Act 2 also features the heartwarming number “Writing Down the Story of My Life” that will inspire little ones to record their adventures.

Directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, “Junie B. Junes, The Musical” is a journal-worthy theater experience for the whole family. The set is colorful, the actors are energetic, and the story is a relatable one for children. Most of all, the delightful story will warm the hearts of young and old.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Junie B. Jones The Musical” through March 6. Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘God of Carnage’ at the John W. Engeman Theater

Review: ‘God of Carnage’ at the John W. Engeman Theater
By: LORI SPEISER JAN. 31, 2016

God of Carnage, currently on stage at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, was written by Yasmina Reza, a French playwright, novelist and screenwriter. She is known for her satiric plays which explore concerns of the middle-class.

“The play is full of humor and great acting.”

God of Carnage is a four-person play about an evening in which two sets of parents gather to discuss how to handle an incident which took place between their young sons. While on the playground, one boy hit the other in the mouth with a stick resulting in two damaged teeth. This awkward situation opens with both couples behaving in a cautiously polite manner. The play’s tagline is “A Comedy of Manners, Without the Manners,” and as implied, the play endeavors to point out how easy it is for people to lose their civilized veneer. As the evening progresses, the conversation veers off course, their behavior deteriorates, and with the addition of rum, disaster ensues.

The play is well-written and cleverly moves the characters along their descent into immature, self-indulgent behavior. As they turn on each other, their loyalties switch along the way. At times it is couple against couple, women against men, then husband against wife. Their behavior should make your crazy relatives or neighbors seem well-balanced.

Along this downward journey there is plenty of humor. Some unexpected moments had the audience erupting in laughter. Physical humor, sexism humor and much more are spread throughout. As their behavior worsened, the comedy increased.

The four actors: Chris Kipiniak, Nancy Lemenager, Mickey Solis and Alet Taylor did an excellent job portraying their different characters. Their facial expressions and body language were animated, expressing thoughts beyond the words of the script. As lines were spoken, the audience was laughing before the anticipated humorous response could be spoken. Their timing was terrific.

Richard T. Dolce did a great job directing. Four people, one set, lots of movement making full use of the stage, deftly moving the actors from calm conversation to farcical chaos.

The play is full of humor and great acting. As it devolves into watching people tear one another apart, you might even learn something about yourself as you laugh at behavior that would disturb you in reality.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes. No intermission.

Advisory: The language throughout the play is littered with profanity

God of Carnage is running at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, NY until March 6th, 2016. The theatre is located at 250 Main Street, Northport. For tickets, call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: Humanity’s inner struggle revealed in black comedy ‘God of Carnage’

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | TIMES OF HUNTINGTON-NORTHPORT

Review: Humanity’s inner struggle revealed in black comedy ‘God of Carnage’
By CHARLES J. MORGAN JAN. 27, 2016

Four highly skilled Equity members starred equally in Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “God of Carnage” that opened Friday, Jan. 21. This tightly written effort was written by Yasmina Reza in French and translated to English by Christopher Hampton. Direction was by Richard T. Dolce, who is also producing artistic director of the Engeman.

On a gleaming geometrical set with little depth and one, little used exit, the four characters — two sets of parents — meet to discuss in a calm, adult, logical manner the fact that the son of one of the couples had clobbered the other’s son with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. The concessive discussion gradually escalates into a full-scale riot of threats, name-calling, replete with blistering vulgarities, physical assaults and, amid slugs of Puerto Rican rum and (let’s admit it), a technically pointedly directed vomiting scene right down stage center! At the height of it husband goes after wife to make it an eight-way free-for-all.

Chris Kipiniak and Alet Taylor play the first couple, Alan and Annette. The “offended” pair are played by Nancy Lemenager and Mickey Solis as Veronica and Michael. The two couples are equally combative, each with their own strategies.

But what are the strategies? Reza wants to bring out the inner rage that is in us all exemplified by the four battlers. They appear to be happily married upper-middle-class types, but this is a veneer. The furnaces of hate, vindictiveness and self-righteousness not too gradually come to the surface, shattering the patina of class politeness and sociability. This tsunami of ill will is made out to be what is truly natural, all else being a glaze of neighborliness under which lies not a madeleine but deadly nightshade.

It is a compelling play as a vehicle for getting inside the head and heart of the audience. And this it accomplishes piercingly. The intra and the inter of family squabbling is not exactly the story line. Reza uses more than a scalpel to surgically excise and reveal to the light the inner workings of the human psyche … she wields a meat cleaver.

If it would be productive to prescind from criticizing the show and talk about the acting, let’s proceed with vigor! The quartet performed as a theatrical exemplar. Kipiniak as Alan, an attorney, is wrapped up in one thing only … his cellphone. Taylor, as his wife Annette, starts off as a loving monument to marriage and motherhood. Lemenager as Veronica and Solis as Michael have careers; she an art loving crusader for the unfortunates of Darfur, he a toilet bowl salesman. All deserve high praise for their acting skills especially in the manner in which they gradually get at each others’ throats. This invaluable skill even prevented the whole thing from degenerating unto pie-in-the-face slapstick.

Your scribe would not say that Dolce had an easy task in this no-intermission show. He had to infuse real life into all four, and to block them accordingly, a result he achieved masterfully not only with aplomb but with art.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “God of Carnage” through March 6. Tickets range from $59 to $64. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

NY Times Review: ‘God of Carnage’ Puts Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring

N.Y. / REGION | ARTS | LONG ISLAND

Review: ‘God of Carnage’ Puts Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring
By AILEEN JACOBSONJAN. 30, 2016
Photo

From left, Nancy Lemenager, Mickey Solis, Alet Taylor and Chris Kipiniak as two sets of parents in “God of Carnage.” The couples have met to discuss a playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons.

 

The ceramic red bull prancing on a shelf could be considered a symbol for the action that takes place before it, in a chic living room in Brooklyn.

The two married couples in the room are ostensibly striving for “the art of coexistence” as they discuss an earlier playground altercation between their 11-year-old sons. At first, the parents seem to be engaged in no more than a bit of social banter, politely lobbing remarks and rejoinders back and forth. But they end up in a metaphoric bull ring — free of actual blood, of course, this being a comedy by Yasmina Reza.

“God of Carnage,” now at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport in a thoughtful and well-acted production, draws both laughs and gasps as the characters become more and more belligerent. Toward the end, the sparring parents are helped along by a lot of rum.

An episode of projectile vomiting (unrelated to the rum) that damages some treasured art books may simply be an unavoidable accident. But it could also be interpreted as an unconscious passive-aggressive gesture. Either way, it is a spectacular special effect and a trigger for more overtly hostile language.

The beginning of the play is calm enough. Michael (Mickey Solis) and Veronica (Nancy Lemenager) have invited Alan (Chris Kipiniak) and Annette (Alet Taylor) to their apartment in the upscale Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Henry, the hosts’ son, sustained two broken teeth when Benjamin, the guests’ son, hit him with a stick. Veronica is drafting a statement about the event, and the first item the parents discuss is whether Benjamin did the deed while “armed with a stick,” as Veronica — who proudly mentions that she is at work on a book about “the Darfur tragedy” in Africa — has written. Alan, a shark of a lawyer (as we hear during his constant cellphone conversations), suggests “furnished with a stick,” and they all quickly agree on the less prejudicial wording.

The writing, elegantly translated by Christopher Hampton from Ms. Reza’s French into culturally on-target American English, is often as telling as this exchange. The details are exquisitely precise, which leads to much of the humor that made this play a Broadway hit and a Tony Award winner after it opened in 2009. (Reza’s 1998 “Art” also won the Tony for best play.)

What the play never really explains is why Veronica thinks a written document, which is not intended, apparently, for any public forum, will help to bring peace or closure, and why she as the aggrieved parent would want that. Some revelations also don’t make much sense: Michael inexplicably admits to questionable behavior toward a family pet that he should know will put him in a bad light, while Alan later loudly proclaims, “My son is a savage.” Reasonably smart people (who haven’t hit the rum yet) know better than to say such things.

The Broadway production, with its blindingly star-studded cast (Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini) and a much longer rehearsal period than the Engeman production, managed to gloss over the play’s weaknesses. That doesn’t always happen here.

Nevertheless, the intelligent direction by Richard T. Dolce and the brightly energetic acting bring out the fun — call it schadenfreude — in watching an escalating battle among four accomplished and privileged adults. Problems in both marriages surface, even as mitigating circumstances emerge that make the playground episode seem much less one-sided. The parents behave like playground bullies (or matadors gone wild), throwing tantrums, fists and four-letter words. The subtle warning — or promise — of the decorative bull in Stephen Dobay’s excellent set, which is expertly lighted by Driscoll Otto, is fulfilled.

“God of Carnage” continues through March 6 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main Street. Information: 631-261-2900 or engemantheater.com.

A version of this review appears in print on January 31, 2016, on page LI8 of the New York edition with the headline: Brooklyn Parents in a Metaphoric Bull Ring. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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