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DTC's God of Carnage: A Comedy of Manners, Vomiting

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There isn't a "splatter zone" for Dallas Theater Center's production of the play God of Carnage, but maybe there should be. A massive, catastrophic bout of vomiting by a character happens early on, a wave of chunky barf that splashes over the scenery furniture and across the floor of the Kalita Humphrey Theater stage. (It's a great special effect. Hint: Watch how the spewing actress holds the sofa pillow.)

The urping scene is a turning point in Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning 2009 play. Up till then, the four characters - two sets of upper-echelon parents meeting for coffee and dessert in an elegant Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, living room - have been ever so civilized. They've gotten together one evening to discuss the uncivilized behavior of their young sons. One has hit the other, knocking out two of his teeth. Legal papers have to be signed. Dental bills are discussed.

Then suddenly up come the contents of the stomach of the lovely Annette Raleigh (played by DTC company member Sally Nystuen Vahle). She's the mother of the perpetrator and has already let the other parents, Michael and Veronica Novak (fellow resident actors Hassan El-Amin and Christina Vela), know that her career is in "wealth management."

Annette's husband Alan (Chris Hury) is a high-powered lawyer, juggling constant calls on his cell from his client, a Big Pharma company facing disaster over a pill that's killing its users. He has little time for social niceties, saying "I have no manners" and calling his own kid "a savage."

The violent Neanderthal lurking just beneath the surface of the haute bourgeoisie is the one and only joke (and it's enough) in God of Carnage, which runs only 75 minutes (an intermission would break up the escalation of overlapping meltdowns by all the characters). One minute they're four educated adults, clucking about Darfur; the next, they're big babies, throwing tantrums and tossing their cookies.

Director Joel Ferrell has paced this dark, witty play (translated from the French by Christopher Hampton) to whip by like an all-out farce. But God of Carnage is really a comedy of manners, taking verbal jabs at certain types of modern urban snobs. (The same peeps who frequent plays at DTC. Wonder if they recognize themselves?)

It's fun to watch the team loyalties shift throughout the play: couple against couple, husbands versus wives, everybody at war with an expensive bottle of rum. And it's a blast to see actors who usually are cast in super-serious roles (Vahle played Linda Loman in DTC's Death of a Salesman) throw themselves into broad physical comedy.

Cleverly staged to deliver hilarious visual shocks, this is a good one to see before catching a not-too-late dinner at some swanky café in Uptown. Best not to eat beforehand.

God of Carnage continues at Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., through June 17. Call 214-880-0202 for tickets.

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