By Yuan-Ming Chiao The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — The living room is stocked with fresh flowers, books on the coffee table, and an ensemble cast that has you squirming in a state of claustrophobic awkwardness, relieved that the scenes unfolding before you do not in any way represent your own life. But when you catch yourself laughing, it’s a kind of knowing laughter that makes The Lab Space and Butterfly Effect Theater’s production of the Broadway hit comedy “God of Carnage” an engaging 90-minute romp. The production is suffused with a dynamic absurdity that makes one feel ill at ease, but is also capable of turning that setting into one that is heartily enjoyable to observe. The Tony-winning story by Yasmina Reza revolves around two sets of parents from different social classes as they discuss how to deal with a fight between their respective children. Bangkok-based Latin American director Jaime Zúñiga succeeds in engaging the audience with mismatched social values, silences and tensions rising out of the characters, which we can somehow sense innately. The cast includes: Lesley Hu (Annette), Derek Kwan (Michael), Lawrence Ong (Alan) and Hui-Shurn Yong (Veronica). “Morality decrees we should control our impulses, but sometimes it’s a good idea not to control them,” says Ong’s character Alan, a stuffy businessman with a penchant for answering his cell phone at the most inopportune times.
The descent into nastiness and pettiness ingenuously scripted by Reza touches on the themes of sociability, political correctness, gender roles and above all else, personal vulnerability. In this respect, Kwan steals the show with an empathetic portrayal of Michael, the accommodating yet frustrated wholesale shop owner. The ensemble, especially the dynamic between each respective married couple, is engaging and brimming, (yet at times overflowing,) with vitality.
Note: While one can sit pretty close to the action, seats in the elevated rafters are recommended for better viewing angles overall.
“God of Carnage” premiered on June 17, with remaining shows on June 24, 25, 26 and July 1,2 and 3. It marks Taipei-based Butterfly Effect Theater and The Lab Space’s second production of 2016 and seventh full show overall. Language: English (with screens displaying Chinese surtitles) Tickets can be purchased online at: http://www.accupass.com/go/carnage