Backyard Renaissance Kicks off Their Eighth Season with the French Play "God of Carnage"

A Hilarious, Fun-Filled Ninety Minutes that also Deliver Important Reflections about Human Nature

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

L-R: Keiko Green, Jessica John and Francis Gercke. Photo by Daren Scott.

Even though I have enjoyed theatre all my life and have been committed to it professionally since 2010, there are many firsts for me during the opening season in San Diego. God of Carnage is one of them being produced by The Old Globe in 2012 and at Lamplighters a little bit before the world changed forever in February 2020. This was my first approach to 'Carnage, a piece by French playwright Yasmina Reza, translated to English by Christopher Hampton which sees the light once again as the season opener for Backyard Renaissance. 

A gathering between the couples Alan (Francis Gercke) and Annette Raleigh (Keiko Green) at Michael (MJ Sieber) and Veronica Novak's (Jessica John) house to determine how to move forward after their kids fought in the playground and the Novak's child ended up missing two front teeth after the other one hit him with a stick. What starts as a tense yet very formal meeting with the writing of a contract, escalates to a screaming fest where shoes come off, and feelings and vomit come out. A laugh-filled, fun, shocking comedy perfectly tackled by all of the actors. The added value to the marvelously written play is that the foursome is made by real-life couples that SWAPED spouses for the play. Both the rapport on stage as well as with the audience during the opening night had a high impact energy flowing all throughout the ninety minutes with no intermission. 

Francis Gercke, Keiko Green, Jessica John and MJ Sieber . Photo by Daren Scott.
Jessica John as the "zen", cultured, civilized Veronica is hilarious. Keiko Green let it all out -literally- as the frustrated pigeonholed wifey Annette or well woof-woof, handling timing skillfully. Rob Lufty along with associate director Hannah Meade, did a great job marking the rhythm between the women, the men, and the couples while interacting. Made me think of the roman colosseum while the battle is happening in the round. As intense as the plot gets, it flowed seamlessly. Francis Gercke as the macho jerk lawyer gives a lot of game to his costars and the audience as well as having fun himself portraying Alan. The game aspect that the play lends is too a strength in this production because it reflects how they have mastered the text and the trust that is there. George Ye as the fight choreographer really hit the marks by rounding the chaos but having it be clean and clear. Each of the characters has their shot, and their comedic moment. I can only imagine how fun industry night will be with this type of rapport. MJ Sieber as the momma's boy Michael is intense and thrillingly raunchy. 

Yi-Chien Lee's modern art-esque set design of the Novak's living room is simple yet sophisticated with white as the main color combined with browns and pieces of art that goes well with Chris Rynne's cold lighting design that makes the play truly pop.

As fun as it all sounds and how the laughs kick in, Reza spoonfeeds the audience different reflections about marriage, commitment, being a parent, and the responsibility of raising someone. How human nature works, how society works, and the way all that leaps out the door when instinct kicks in.

Other aspects too about our own unique governments, what we consider right and wrong, the volatility of it all with the risks of change and going to the opposite end. God of Carnage is truly a great piece of work that Renaissance dove into head first, with a great big splash.

Currently playing until March 25 at Tenth Avenue Arts Center with an Industry Night on Monday, March 20th. For ticket prices and performance times please click here


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