Unconventional comedy

By Amanda Nicholson

The Marietta Times


After two children get into a nasty schoolyard fight, resulting in one getting his teeth knocked out with a wooden stick, the parents decide to meet and sort things through.

In the Mid-Ohio Valley Players latest production, “God of Carnage,” the parents are left reeling as they try to come to grips with what their children have done, as well as their own resulting actions.

Director Geoff Coward said the play is unlike many others that have come before it.

“I first saw the play on Broadway in New York,” he said. “This one really struck me. Marcia Gay Harden got best actress for the play. I felt there and then, ‘That’s a great play for community theater,’ but it’s difficult…The play is in real time and there’s no intermission. Once the actors get on that stage, there’s no turning back.”

Coward said the play takes place in present-day Brooklyn. It is a comedy, so there will be laughs, but the theme is dark.

“The parents meet to see how they can handle the situation and how they can resolve it,” he said. “By the end of it, they’re acting more like children than the adults.”

The stage is essentially a wreck by the end, he said.

“It’s a lot of mudslinging,” Coward said. “The two women gang up against the two men, the two men gang up against the two women and the husband and wife pairs gang up against each other. It’s carnage in Marietta.”

Patricia Burkhammer, 43, of Marietta, plays Annette, the mother of the boy who wields the club. This is her first foray into acting.

“This is the first play I’ve ever done, so I’m a newcomer and that’s pretty exciting,” Burkhammer said, adding that her daughter being active in theater spurred her to audition for her role.

She said having a cast of only four has been challenging.

“You’re carrying the weight of the whole play between four people,” she said. “As far as the most challenging thing, there’s just a lot of lines to remember.”

She said the most fun part of her role has been the persona of Annette.

“I actually have to puke on stage as well as have a complete tantrum where I throw flowers everywhere,” she said. “It’s fun to be someone else for a while. It’s stuff you could never do in real life. You escape real life for a while.”

She said the play has some deep meanings in spite of the comedy.

“Everybody, when you meet new people, you put your best foot forward,” she said, adding the play is really about “How true people reveal themselves and true relationships reveal themselves.”

R.J. Lowe plays Michael, who goes through a hard process of revealing how he truly feels.

“You learn that Michael is not happy in his marriage; he’s almost to a breaking point,” Lowe said. “But he is so used to putting on that front that it finally cracks and his real self starts to come through. It happens with all the characters in the show.”

He said he’s had a lot of fun with the play.

“It’s fun but it’s hard work,” he said. “If it was just fun, there’d really be no point in doing it. The payoff that comes from working hard…you’re creating something out of nothing through hard work. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

Lowe said audience members should be prepared to have fun despite it not being a funny-ha-ha comedy.

“Number one, it is a comedy,” he said. “The comedy comes out of the situation and dialogue. The comedy comes out of naturalistic things…It’s not a typical comedy. It’s comedy of manners without the manners.”

Burkhammer said the play is not intended for youngsters.

“There is some select language in it as well as actual consumption of alcohol on stage,” she said. “It’s definitely for mature audiences…It would be a scream for couples and parents.”