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God of Carnage' wreaks havoc on relationships

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UMaine's Maine Masque presents Yasmina Reza play

ORONO The Maine Masque is the University of Maine's student-run theater group. Every year, members choose a play to be presented in the final mainstage slot of the season. Every part of this production is student-run students perform in these pieces, of course, but they also produce, direct and design it. They are completely in charge.

This year's offering is Yasmina Reza's 'God of Carnage,' directed by third-year student Goldie Irvine.

Veronica Novak (Jordan Holmes) and her husband Michael (Jackson McLaughlin) have invited the Raleighs Annette (Allison Smith) and Alan (Jose-Luis Lopez Ramos) into their home under less than ideal circumstances. It seems that there has been an altercation between their children; the Raleigh boy has struck the Novak boy in the face with a stick. So the two couples decide to get together and discuss what should happen next.

However, it doesn't take long before the behaviors of the children take a backseat to the multitude of inter- and intracouple issues brought forth in these four people. Whether it's Veronica's smug know-it-all attitude, Michael's flip-flopping wishy-washiness, Alan's unflappable work obsession or Annette's illness-fueled frustration, each of these people is forced to confront uncomfortable truths truths about themselves and about their respective marriages.

It can be tough for college-age actors to skew older. There's a vitality to them that can be hard to temper. However, this cast does a fine job in that regard. And the quality of performance is quite high to boot. Holmes brings a shrillness to Veronica that makes her both unlikeable and very watchable. McLaughlin has an inherent earnestness to him that suits Michael well, especially when he allows us momentary glimpses at the hard edge beneath his amiable exterior.

Ramos's no-nonsense demeanor is spot-on. His constant cell phone check-ins from work balance nicely with the aggressive apathy he brings to his person-to-person interactions. And Smith manages to navigate a number of sharp character turns from conciliatory to claws-out and back again with a deft believability.

'God of Carnage' was a unique experience for anyone who regularly attends UMaine productions. The set designed by Ramos faces the back wall of the Hauck Auditorium stage. The seats are laid out along that back wall. They essentially shrunk and repurposed the space. A fine job of it, too the intimacy of a show such as this one would be largely lost in a large space. They carved a black box out of a proscenium auditorium; impressive stuff.

Coaxing sufficiently mature performances out of actors who are still young is no easy feat, but director Irvine manages to do just that. It's a bold choice for a relatively inexperienced director 'God of Carnage' explores territory that many would find daunting but Irvine tackles the task at hand with fearlessness, producing a briskly-paced, enthralling show that feels much shorter than its runtime.

There's a palpable esprit de corps in every Maine Masque show; 'God of Carnage' is no exception. The passion felt by these students for what they do is undeniable, and with that passion comes joy. Their exuberance shines through, resulting in a wonderful theatergoing experience for all involved. 

Kudos to the Maine Masque. Keep doing what you do.

Last modified on Thursday, 18 April 2013 13:36


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