Good intentions disintegrate in rollicking comic drama opening Oct. 26

The Ripon College Department of Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with the 2009 Tony Award-winning comic drama “God of Carnage,” by Yasmina Resa, translated by Christopher Hampton. The show runs Wednesday, Oct. 26, through Saturday, Oct. 29.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. in Benstead Theatre, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended by calling 920-748-8791 or sending an email to [email protected]. The play is recommended for college students and older because of the use of foul language for emphasis as tempers rise, but there is no sexual content.

In the play, a pair of well-meaning parents meet each other for the first time in the Brooklyn condominium of Veronica, played by Lucie Hodgkins ’25 of McFarland, Wisconsin, and Michael Novak, played by Pierce Reese-Grimm ’24 of Wautoma, Wisconsin. They are meeting over a mildly violent occurrence in a public park between their 11-year-old son who was injured and the son of Alan and Annette Raleigh, played by Levi Keen ’24 of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, and Kinsley Kahl ’26 of Monona, Wisconsin.

The meeting is intended to smooth things over so the boys can make up and the parents can negotiate as adults to avoid residual anger, resentment or hurt feelings. The conversation moves along briskly for a while, coffee and home-made pastry are served, but negotiations break down and each couple starts launching zingers at the other. Then, edgy comments get tossed back and forth between husbands and wives leading to emotional and relational meltdowns.

The play’s director is Dr. Robert Amsden, professor emeritus of theatre. He says he has been reading this play every spring for several years and felt that this fall would be a good time to stage it. “I’ve been looking for a good comedy for a long time,” he says. “And with comedies, I am a hard sell, but this spring I was laughing out loud as I read and re-read the script.

“The play is not for the faint of heart. As the conflict heightens, the language deteriorates, but it is nothing that we don’t hear all the time in movies or even in television shows,” he says. “The tensions in American culture now are so strong with polarization that I thought if we had the opportunity to see some well-intentioned folks run amok in a make-believe setting, it might yield a bit of cathartic laughter. People might come away from the theatre feeling a little less tense and angry.”

According to the New York Times, the play is “a study in the tension between civilized surface and savage instinct. …” Amsden sees the play as a satire about the duplicity of middle-class life, which is a fairly standard observation in realistic theatre, but in this play, “liberal points of view get skewered as well as conservative ones. Everyone gets their fair share of insults. It is great fun, even though the characters’ tempers begin to run high,” he says.

Both of the play’s designers are Ripon College graduates who are working with Amsden, their former professor. The scenic and lighting designer and technical director is Professor of Theatre John Dalziel ’02. He has found designing scenery for this play interesting as the play opens up possibilities for a more “abstract” design, even though the dialogue is in the realistic domestic drama-comedy genre.

The costume designer is Andrea Williams ’04, assistant professor of costume design at Texas A & M at Commerce. She has done technical costuming work at various professional theatres around the country including American Players Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Steppenwolf in Chicago and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. She is assisted by Sophie Walheim, costume shop supervisor.

(Photo: Lucie Hodgkins ’25, left, and Levi Keen ’24)

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