Yasmina Rezas 2009 Broadway hit, God of Carnage, has a harsh message: underneath all our civility, were still savages, ready to defend our territory with brute force. That audiences can laugh uproariously as this concept plays out is a tribute not only to Rezas comic character confrontations but also to Hot Summer Nights first-rate casting and direction.
Two couples meet to discuss a schoolboy fight between their sons. Alan, a pharmaceutical company lawyer, and his wife, Annette, whos in wealth management (Alans), have come to the apartment of Michael, a household goods wholesaler, and his wife, Veronica, a writer specializing in African civilizations.
The conversation is cordial at first, Veronica serving coffee and pastry as the four mull over getting the boys together for apologies and work out the medical bills.
But cracks in their well-bred manners quickly surface as accusations of bad parenting and high-minded attitudes devolve into sniping within the couples over long-suffered irritants. A no-holds-barred war is declared, fueled by rounds of alcohol, leading to near-violent truth telling.
Reza gets a lot of mileage out of recognizable marital gripes and spices things up with several I cant believe they did that theatrical coups. But she diminishes her scripts power by having characters constantly flip-flop attitudes and switch allegiances, making them wildly inconsistent just to get easy laughs.
Thankfully, the cast makes it all work, keeping the 80-minute one-act hurtling along. Derrick Ivey turns in another devastating portrait of a jaded, weary man, his Alan a clear-eyed but emotionally closed off husband.
Julie Fishell follows up her career-defining performance in the companys August: Osage County last year with another multi-level characterization as Annette: bitter and frustrated, yet extremely vulnerable. Dana Marks knowingly reveals Veronicas seething resentment of her husbands approach to life, while making plain the characters own prejudices. Michael Tourek projects Michaels working-class outlook believably as he quietly subverts his wifes liberal values.
Richard Rolands direction adds welcome action and physical comedy to the talky script, staged against Chris Berniers striking minimalist living room that includes a stunning central wall hanging depicting a gnarled tree.
Hot Summer Nights again proves it has the resources to mount contemporary, issue-oriented material and deserves credit for adding such fare into its season of light comedy and musicals.