Friday, July 20, 2012

God of Carnage (Atlantis Theatrical)


Two eleven year old boys have a fight with one ending up with a broken lip and two incisors gone for life after being hit with a stick on the face by the other. In an effort to reach an amicable agreement for the incident, the parents agree to meet up at the aggrieved party’s house. Veronica (Lea Salonga) is the victim’s obsessive compulsive mother, a writer with a penchant for African political affairs. The father is Michael (Adrian Pang), a self-made household items dealer with a sick mother who would not stop telephoning him. The "aggressor’s" mother is Annette (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo), who is involved in wealth management, while the father Alan (Art Acuña), is a pharmaceuticals company lawyer inseparable from his mobile phone. What starts out as an evening of seemingly adult discussion digresses into multiple arguments touching various sensitive topics, with both couples ending up acting more and more like children with the help of some booze.
This is not a musical so expecting flashy song and dance numbers to keep your attention would prove to be futile. The strength of this play is on its dialogue and the actors in it. Although the play does not go over two hours, an hour and a half is still considerably long, which makes it easier to lose interest. One is bound to find such moments here but luckily they are not too plenty. The plot consists of a rather lengthy discussion starting out as an effort to resolve a fight between two kids, but eventually drags on as one issue branches out to another.

Just when you thought that all issues have been resolved, one character would then find a way to insert yet another delicate issue which would cause another altercation. And so you are stuck in that living room with those four adults who could not seem to patch things up. Is it boring, then? Well, not really. The dialogues make you reflect on some idiosyncrasies of everyday life that we no longer bother to bring up because they have almost become synonymous to gospel truth. In short, we just accept it. In this play, however, these are questioned, and the discussions stemming out from them are quite interesting, to say the least.

Still, the topics discussed are rather specific and would most likely choose an audience, although they talk about a plethora of stuff which leads you to believe that you would at least be able to relate to one of them. What makes everything entertaining is not just the nuances of the characters, but their flaws as well. Each of the four gives a wonderful performance that you just could not help but enjoy.

Lea Salonga as Veronica need not sing to be appreciated. Her portrayal of an obsessive compulsive mother, who would not settle for anything less than what she thinks is right, just draws you in. However, it is her character’s gradual shift from being always in control to finally letting all her frustrations out that makes her memorable. The same goes for Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. Her character’s reserved persona at first makes you think that she would be the most boring of the four, but after the puking event (which seems to be the play’s highlight) another side of her character starts to emerge, which is really bound to give the audience a good time. In spite of the difference between the characteristics of the two ladies evident at first glance, the discovery of their similarities as the play nears its end gives you a rather good glimpse of what is really happening inside a woman’s head.

Adrian Pang as Michael is the funnier of the two men because of his mannerisms. The guy is a true comedian. His chemistry with Lea Salonga is just enough to make you believe that they are really this perfect couple at the surface but with serious issues lingering beneath. Their body language proves to be effective in subtly displaying this. Art Acuña as Alan is funny in a way that sarcastic people tend to be funny. His character seems to be the most behaved, and the only one to remain level-headed all the time. Even his “breakdown” scene is done in a calm manner dissimilar to the other three’s rather emotional sudden outbursts.

In the end, it is the clash of characters that makes this play watchable. The conflict is maximized by turning the characters against one another, making sure that each possible pair has a lingering issue that could be blown out of proportion in order to provide no non-sense entertainment. The bonus would be the reflections swimming in your head once you leave the theater. In a way, this play does convince you to reevaluate your view on human relations and our tendency to subscribe to the complexities of various societal norms just to keep everything “civilized", not because they are, but rather because they should be.

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