One hundred years after starting the company, and three years after closing their stage for renovations and COVID-19, Players’ Theatre finally returned to in-person shows with Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Despite the play having only four characters and being produced in a small black-box theatre, the show was full of energy, matched by a full audience ecstatic to experience live theatre once again.
God of Carnage depicts two sets of parents discussing what to do about their children’s playground squabble, which left one son missing two teeth. Veronica Novak (Flora Situ, U1 Arts), whose stubborn nature keeps the play on track, and Michael Novak (Samuel Valentim-Gervais, U3 Science), a passive people-pleaser play the host couple, who spend the majority of the play attempting to convince the other parents to take responsibility for their son’s actions. Unfortunately for them, Annette Raleigh (Claire Tees, U2 Arts) and Alan Raleigh (Euan Lathrop, U2 Arts) get hilariously distracted by Annette’s nausea and a cluster of hostile work calls, causing the four’s initial disagreement to dissolve into comedic chaos.
Although all of the actors embodied their characters well, Lathrop’s performance truly stole the show. His character, a corrupt businessman and irritated husband, participated in every bizarre tangential storyline—from speculating the fate of the Novak family’s pet hamster in the wild to reminiscing about childhood clique behaviors—adding just the right amount of childish enthusiasm to the scene.
Although the play’s performance is a highlight on its own, credit is due for the crew and production team, who had to adapt to COVID-19 safety rules and learn how to produce an in-person show. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, executive director Basile Guichard, U3 Arts, explained the difficulties of learning how to stage in-person shows.
“When we arrived [on] September 1, […] all our sets and costumes and props were in boxes under [a] huge tarp,” Guichard said. “We just had to put up all the lights, and figure out the tech booth. We don’t know how to use all this material. Everyone that has [produced] here before has graduated. We had to learn everything to make this possible. Everyone has had to step up.”
Another challenge was creating tension within a socially distanced play. Because the actors are unmasked, which is allowed under provincial guidelines, they have to stay as far away from each other as possible. With the heated nature of the play, director Max Grosskopf, U3 Arts, and Guichard had to find dramatic ways to create tension without letting the actors touch.
“Sometimes, instead of going toward another actor, you’ll see an actor go away. And so it creates another tension,” Guichard said. “You know what happens when you’re angry, […] you want to go and fight. But what happens if you feel angry but you distance yourself? It creates a whole different narrative.”
By making the best of a tough situation, Guichard and Grosskopf added interesting blocking and thought-provoking dynamics to the characters’ relationships. Despite the behind-the-scenes obstacles, God of Carnage is a celebration of live theatre.
“People are able to see live theatre again, [and] get that human interaction,” Guichard said. “We’ve been missing that element of art and creativity and getting together, creating something out of nothing. And now that we can have it back, it’s just been overwhelming joy and positivity.”