Oh God of Carnage, you dark, dark, dark, dark oh so dark, dark comedy. You resonate in the most amusing but oh so uncomfortable way. You embrace all the nightmarish qualities of parents and churn them into 75 minutes of cynical, but really kinda, sorta true commentary on the most miserable side of modern parenting. Palo Alto Players, you have brought out the worst in us, and I thank you.
What initially starts off as two sets of parents discussing an altercation between their children eventually goes to…well, the bad place, and what a wild ride. Like a twisted yuppie game of survivor we witness alliances change faster than you can say passive aggressive, revealing there is no sanctity in marriage, in gender or really, anything. Throw in adult beverages and it becomes a no holds barred kind of downward spiral that makes you cringe and laugh out loud at the same time.
This is a play where you won’t leave liking any of the characters. Not a single one. You may want to slap them. You’ll probably want to chuck things at their heads. It’s possible you might want to see lethal bodily harm come to them. Indeed, a slow, painful choking might be too kind for some of these characters. These actors absolutely embody the despicable natures of their parts and it was easy to love to hate every ridiculous thing that comes out of their mouths, every eye roll, every deeply offended objection to less than 100% support for their absurd arguments. Thinly veiled civility deteriorates at a totally believable pace during this savage duel and the staged movement naturally works its way into an equally convincing frenzy.
I felt like while the circumstances eventually lend themselves to being over the top, the play really was grounded for the most part in reality, which made it even more enjoyable. Honestly, you have met these people. You know these “types”… and it’s refreshing to be in an audience that collectively shares in your recognition and disgust of these parenting disasters.
In a small but brilliant move, the original Paris (and then New York) references, which were lost on me in previous incarnations, have been changed to Palo Alto references and while those who aren’t familiar with the city might also lose out on the impact, I very much appreciated the alteration as it personalized and further underscored the ludicrousness of the parent perspectives.
This is admittedly a very bleak show with regard to content, but there’s so much humor in it and it’s so well done. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the production is a standout from top to bottom with effective technical wizardry and a subtle final effect that punctuates the piece, perfectly. A very strong 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a well-executed, conflict-filled, farcical rollercoaster.