OTTAWA — “Fess up. Aren’t you, beneath your comfortable middle-class trappings, a Neanderthal at heart?” The four folks in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, executed in savagely funny style by Third Wall Theatre, sure are.
Oh, they try to be genteel: two couples meeting to discuss a schoolyard dust-up between their sons. They drink coffee, eat pastry, chat about art. Soon, though, cracks appear in the civil discourse. By the time the evening staggers to a close, it’s not just the living room where they meet but, at least metaphorically, all of western civilization of which they believe they represent the peak — in a bourgeois sort of way — that lies in tatters.
Michel (John Koensgen), the conciliatory owner of a household goods company, and his book-writing, passive-aggressive wife Veronique (Mary Ellis) are the hosts and parents of the boy who has lost a couple of teeth in the fight.
Annette, a wealth manager and brittle snob played by Kristina Watt, is married to Alain (Todd Duckworth), a smug and rude lawyer who repeatedly takes cellphone calls from a distraught corporate client. They are the guests and the parents of the attacking boy.
“There’s nothing to be gained by getting stuck down an emotional cul-de-sac,” says Veronique at the outset. That’s precisely where they head.
They begin by defending their sons but are soon defending themselves and verbally slashing each other as alliances —one couple against the other, men against women, three against one— form and dissolve faster than you can say, “vicious.”
Annette, who frequently looks like she’s suffering from an overdose of botox, stares at Michel like he just crawled out from under a rock.
Michel, finally casting aside his Mr. Nice Guy routine, drops his voice ominously as he goes on the attack against the insufferable Alain. He later declares himself, with a mix of pride and inevitability, a Neanderthal.
God of Carnage
Written by Yasmina Reza
Directed by Ross Manson
Featuring: John Koensgen, Kristina Watt, Mary Ellis, Todd Duckworth
Third Wall Theatre
At the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre
Continues until March 2. GCTC Box Office, 613-236-5196