Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God of Carnage Manila: An Amateur's Review

So I just got home from a trip to Manila to see God of Carnage.

Yes, I flew to Manila just to see a play.  Got a problem with that?

Relax, it's just Manila.  It's not like I went to New York to chase a show.  Well, I'm probably going to do that one of these days.  Allegiance, anyone?  Anyway, that's beside the point.

A lot of people I know frown at my vice of flying to places to see shows only to fly back home immediately afterwards.  They especially accuse me of being an addict--in that I spend money on airfare and premium tickets just to see Lea Salonga.  Let me, however, respond that if one wants to witness refined art and expect to utter superlatives about it, money ceases to matter much.  It's not a luxury because art is something very important.

Back to the play.  God of Carnage revolves around a meeting between two sets of parents who make an effort to have a civil discussion about the well-being of their sons who had recently gotten themselves in a fight.  One boy hit the other with a stick resulting in the latter losing two teeth.  This single act play kicks off with a composed (even restrained) grown-up-like exchange of words where an obvious air of nicety pervades the room.  It progresses with the niceties gradually disappearing as they get comfortable with each other.

The pivotal point is when one of the characters vomits after getting an upset stomach from eating clafouti.  From there, the situation rolls fast downhill and the four adults act increasingly like big babies.  Alcohol comes into the picture and causes the doors of decency to get completely unhinged and the sparks of utter chaos to fly free.  They steer off the grid and it gets to a point where they almost abandon the issue at hand--their sons.  The conversation jumps around from topics like the perils of marriage to misogyny to hunger in the third world.  Each person in the play fights with every other in a round robin of abusive personal attacks, no-holds-barred profanity and pillow hitting.

There is no genuine denouement but I guess that's the point.  The play was basically about how grown-up lives go on and on and on restrained by compulsory niceties imposed by social mores.  It was crystal clear to me that the play was telling the audience how everyone has to put up with everyone else's bullshit on a day-to-day basis.

And just in case people are wondering, it was an R18 show so there were no children.  You may sigh in relief now.

The production I had the pleasure of seeing featured an all-star cast with four inimitable giant names of the stage: Lea SalongaMenchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Art Acuña and the British-Singaporean sensation, Adrian Pang.  It was absolutely epic in every sense of the word!  Running for over 80 minutes, the script written by French playwright, Yasmina Reza, was an explosive mixture of heart attack-inducing comedy, hard reality bitchslaps and gut-wrenching drama.  That standing ovation at the end was very well deserved, to say the least.

If the only version of the text you're familiar with is the 2011 film, Carnage, with Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet and John C. Reilly, you're missing out big time and you should feel largely short-changed!  I'm telling you, the differences are vast.  The film felt like nothing more than a contrived imitation.  I'm not only saying this because I'm a theatre junkie.  Don't get me wrong; I love good films!  It's just that the play mounted on a real stage in front of a live audience is 70 times better than the film adaptation even if you put the big Oscar-winning silver screen names into account.

Here are a few snapshots from the show to give you a hint of what I'm talking about.  And, no, I didn't take these photos myself because that would have been illegal.  I believe these are official press release shots.

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

Photo source: Broadway's Musician (A Tumblr Page)

Might I add that I sat in the theatre preparing myself to feel awkward that the actors on stage, having musical theatre backgrounds, weren't going to be singing.  The awkwardness never came, though.  They were such naturals that I got too absorbed in their characters to even remember they were just acting.

Menchu, who played Annette, is worth special mention here.  She played piss drunk incredibly well!  The drunk image of her in my head was so difficult to remove that while waiting for her to come out of the backstage door, I was half-expecting her to be walking groggily.

Anyway, here are some of my own photos taken after the show:

with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo after God of Carnage
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Annette Reille in the play)

with Lea Salonga after God of Carnage
with Lea Salonga and my cousin, Isa

with Lea Salonga after God of Carnage
Lea Salonga (Veronica Houllié in the play)

with Art Acuña after God of Carnage
Art Acuña (Alan Reille in the play)

God of Carnage
Behold! The Autographed Playbill!