Theater Review: AE’s ‘God of Carnage’ — ‘great comedy is an achievement’

Katie Maringer (from left), David A. Gingerich, Lisa VanDyke and Stephen F. Vrtol. (Photo by John Cobb)
Katie Maringer (from left), David A. Gingerich, Lisa VanDyke and Stephen F. Vrtol. (Photo by John Cobb)

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Having reviewed this play recently when it played at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, my comments will focus on the exceptional performances of this outstanding cast at Rockford’s Artists’ Ensemble.

Stephen Vrtol III and Katie Maringer are the Novaks, and David A. Gingerich and Lisa Van Dyke are the Raleighs. The two couples meet under circumstances arising from a controversy between their two 12-year-old sons. It is never explained precisely how the Novaks’ son sustained damage to two of his teeth, but that is the problem. The conversation is civil, but as in many cases, quickly turns to more negativity.

Alan (Gingerich) spends much of his time on his cell phone conducting business. We soon see that this has become a problem for his wife. Maringer (Veronica) assumes the role of peacemaker, but in moments, a screaming harridan, drinking brandy straight from the bottle. We begin to understand that negotiations at every level can result in the worst of wars. A seemingly simple plot exemplifies the world at its worst.

Vrtol, always at his best when a comedic character is needed, is at his quirkiest, and Maringer responds to every line he delivers. The screaming finale keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Drama is often the “meat of theater,” but great comedy is an achievement.

God of Carnage runs through May 25. Artists’ Ensemble’s 10th season closes with Crumbs From the Table of Joy. Written by Lynn Nottage, it opens June 13 and runs through June 29. For further information concerning tickets, call (815) 394-5004.

A few personal notes …

April 26, I “celebrated” my 86th birthday. With age, life becomes much more complicated. Health issues arise, and we find our lifestyle radically changes. Services are needed, and our families often have to come to the rescue. I am most fortunate in having so many caring people in my life and am surviving. I do thank dear friends who have kept in touch. Hopefully, I’ll be up and about soon, and again, thank you.

From the May 21-27, 2014, issue

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