God of Carnage at Center Stage Theater

French Drama/Comedy By Way of New York

The director and teacher Peter Frisch has given a great deal of support to the performing arts community here in Santa Barbara, both through his leadership as the initial directory at the new Granada and through his acting studio classes. He’s a seasoned professional, with serious credits in stage and television, and I’m sure he’ll be back with something interesting for us soon, but I regret to report that this production of God of Carnage at Center Stage is not up to his usual standards. Maybe this existential comedy of manners has traveled through one culture too many on its journey from the French stage first to London, then New York, and now Santa Barbara, because somehow, Friday’s performance never found the proper tone for Yasmina Reza’s script. As the class-marked wholesaler, Michael Novak, Bill Egan played the part with too strong an accent and too broad a delivery to mesh well with the nuanced material. In contrast, Jennifer Vogel’s portrayal of Veronica Novak, Michael’s liberal/highbrow wife, seemed not vivid enough to strike the right balance. As the other couple, Annette Raleigh and Alan Raleigh, Robin Burrows and Thom Zimerle were equally unsympathetic—which could be considered a success, if that’s the interpretation of the script intended here—but somehow the back-and-forth of the dialogue did not quite mesh, as it must, no matter what you’re trying to get across. It could be that I walked in on an off night, but I’m still puzzled by what this version of God of Carnage is trying to achieve.

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