BLUEBARN’s “God of Carnage” a Rubik’s Cube of Comedy

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October 10th, 2013

Omaha, NE — The BLUEBARN Theatre opens its 25th Anniversary Season with the 2009 Tony Award Winning play God of Carnage.

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Last weekend, The BLUEBARN Theatre in downtown Omaha, Nebraska opened the first show of their 25th Season with the comedy God of Carnage, the 2009 Tony Award winner for Best Play by Yasmina Reza.

The Cast of 'God of Carnage': (from left) Ablan Roblin, Jill Anderson, Jerry Longe, and Theresa Sindelar

The Cast of ‘God of Carnage’: (from left) Ablan Roblin, Jill Anderson, Jerry Longe, and Theresa Sindelar

God of Carnage follows two couples, Alan and Annette as well as Michael and Veronica. They meet at Michael and Veronica’s apartment because their children got into an altercation on the playground where one child ended up missing two teeth. As the two couples attempt to politely discuss the incident with one another, tempers flare, liquor flows, and the each person fends for themselves in an hilarious all out verbal war where the parents become no better than squabbling children in their own right.

The show director, BLUEBARN Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer chose the play because it matched up perfectly with the theatre’s 25 anniversary theme, “Over the Edge”. In fact, those exact words are used on the back description of the play to describe each couple’s descent into political incorrectness, “going over the edge”. After casting the play, Clement-Toberer and cast started rehearsing their usual way, by setting up the movement and framework of the show, also know as ‘the skeleton’ before diving into the rhythm and pacing of the comedy.

“Then about a week into it, when we really realized the beast with which we were dealing with,” laughed Clement-Toberer, “we found the right way to start working with it. We started working moment to moment from that time. A lot of times when I direct something I’ll build the skeleton pretty rapidly and then I’ll go in and fill in the bones and organs, so to speak. This one was a bit different. We really started to find the rhythm of the play as early as we could.”

That beast that Clement-Toberer describes is the show’s deceptive simplicity. The show takes place on one base set, there are no set changes, and the lighting and sound demands are minimal. What that does is leave no safety net of spectacle to progress a show’s rhythm, you must rely solely on the actor’s ability to support the text and tell the story. God of Carnage is a verbal and witty that turns on a dime and goes from one extreme to the other of political correctness to absolute chaos. For an actor like Ablan Roblin, who plays Alan is the BLUEBARN production, finding a natural progression from one extreme to the other the doesn’t feel forced is a tall order.

“I think Susan hit it on the head that the approach to this was that it was about finding the right intentions.” Roblin said. “Finding what was real about what the characters were doing and why they were doing it is what really drives the play. Taking that intention to its absolute extreme is what makes it funny. Going for what’s honest and real and then pushing it to its absolute limit, that is where the comedy lives, but it was finding that.”

The key to a show like God of Carnage lies in maintaining the emotional authenticity throughout each moment of the play, be it politie or outrageous, dramatic or comedic, you have to find the authenticity of each moment in the play and then connect those moments as seamlessly as possible.

“Theresa Sindelar, who is one of the other four (on stage), came up with a really good (analogy).” Clement-Toberer said. “She said this play is like a rubik’s cube and it’s a perfect analogy because from a text point of view, you read it and you think it’s a fantastic piece of theatre. Then you get it up on it’s feet and it’s an entirely different beast. The lines are still the same, the story is still the same but the tone; I think my actors are about toned out with me saying ‘We’ve got to find the fine line between the comedy and the drama.’”

What has made God of Carnage such a hit with audiences across the country, is that is basically the world’s worst example of conflict resolution. By the end of the show, each audience member identifies with a certain character, then watches that character go off the rails and lash out at other people with no filter for appropriateness or decorum. Roblin, a father of 2 himself, said there are many times that parents wish they could go off the handle the way the characters in the show do.

“My wife saw the show on Saturday and absolutely loved it,” said Roblin. “She said what was so funny to her in the very beginning was, ‘You’ve been in situations like that where it’s very tense.’ And from that tension comes the comedy because you are like ‘What’s going to happen?!’ And then to be able to go to those extremes sometimes is fun!”

Ok, so maybe it’s the world’s best example of conflict resolution.

The BLUEBARN Theatre’s production of God of Carnage runs through October 18th at their Old Market playing space on 11th and Jones Street in Omaha, Nebraska. For ticket information, call 402-345-1576 and for more information on the BLUEBARN Theatre, visit bluebarn.org.

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