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Theatre / God of Carnage

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There's nothing to be gained from getting stuck down some emotional cul-de-sac.
- Véronique, on page 2 of the script

God of Carnage (French: Le dieu du carnage) is a 2006 play by French author Yasmina Reza. Two boys get into a fight, and one of them gets his teeth broken. Their parents meet to discuss the situation and work out a solution peacefully. Things escalate rapidly, and this is where Hilarity Ensues.

It was adapted into a feature film in 2011 by Roman Polański, with the title of Carnage.

The characters appearing in this play:

  • Véronique Houillé - Hostess of the house where the play is set. She works as a writer and part-time in an art and history library. Renamed Veronica Novak in Christopher Hampton's English translation.
  • Michel Houillé - Véronique's husband. He is a wholesaler of plumbing goods. Called Michael Novak in the translation.
  • Annette Reille - Ferdinand's mother and Alain's wife, a wealth manager. Her surname is given in the translation as Raleigh.
  • Alain Reille - Annette's husband, a lawyer working for a big pharmaceutical company embroidered in a scandal. Called Alan Raleigh in the translation.
Non-appearing characters:
  • Bruno Houillé and Ferdinand Reille - The two eleven-year-olds whose fight, which left Bruno wounded, is the casus belli for the events in the play. Called Henry Novak and Benjamin Raleigh in the translation.
  • Camille Houillé - Véronique and Michel's younger daughter, she's the owner of a hamster which Michel deliberately lost on the road.
  • Michel's mother - She calls in twice from the land-line phone.
  • Maurice and Serge - Alan's interlocutors over the phone, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company and his assistant respectively.

This work contains examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: Alain, as quickly becomes clear from his many phone conversations.
  • Black Comedy: Four grown-ups who utterly fail in even maintaining a façade of civility, all while proclaiming it's the worst day of their lives? Funny Moments.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The once-civil conversation between the Reilles and the Houillés quickly goes downhill because of everyone's sense of entitlement. And this is what makes the play so compelling.
  • The Comically Serious: Alain attempts to remain calm throughout all the absurdity.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Michel's mother happens to be taking the same exact pills whose possibly harmful side effects Alain, a lawyer to the pharmaceutical company that produces them, is discussing over the phone.
  • Cutting the Electronic Leash: Annette throws Alain's mobile into a vase full of water after growing weary of his constant phone conversations.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All four principle characters are snarkers to a degree, but Alain has the deadpan side down.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Sort of. Véronique eventually gets fed up and starts pounding Michel's back, but it isn't taken too seriously. However, it should be noted that the lack of reaction to it seemed to have less to do with gender, and more with the fact that he was being really annoying, and he doesn't seem to be in any pain from it.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Toutou; Darjeeling.
  • Enemy Mine: One of the main points of the play is the constantly shifting alliances between the four, even though none of them really like each other that much.
  • Everyone Has Standards
    • Annette is married to an amoral attorney who will calmly discuss severe problems happening to humans over the phone, yet she is absolutely disgusted to find out that Michel abandoned his hamster on the street.
    • Despite not wanting them to come over, once he has been forced to accept that he can't avoid it, Michel goes out of his way to make them feel welcome because "Guests are guests".
  • Freak Out:
    • The most spectacular one has got to be Alain after his wife kills his all-important phone.
    • Annette's reaction to Véronique throwing her handbag across the room is pretty extreme. She ends up bitch-slapping the tulips.
  • Happily Married: It quickly becomes clear that Annette and Alain are rather an aversion. Véronique and Michel, on the other hand, seem to be a straight example of this trope... until it gets subverted so massively that their family looks even more dysfunctional than that of the Reilles.
  • Hypocrite: All of them on some matter or other.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lots, but Annette's distraught Freak Out to having her handbag thrown across the room even after destroying her husband's cell phone while mocking his Freak Out about it stands out.
  • In Vino Veritas: Once the characters start to get drunk, the sorry state of their relationships is quickly revealed.
  • Jerkass: Alain is quite transparently this right from the start, but all four of them reveal varying levels of this when certain buttons get pushed.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Michel starts off seeming quite nice, but even before this persona has really cracked, he reveals that he abandoned his hamster on the street.
    • Much of the reason why the situation deteriorates so much is because none of them can resist making snide, petty remarks on various matters that will inevitably cause offense.
  • Lady Drunk: Two of them, eventually. The two men also drink, but not as heavily.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Annette mocks Alain for being so distraught after she has killed his mobile phone. Not long after, a similar incident leaves Annette equally distraught.
  • Minimalism: Four characters, one setting, Real Time. The beginning stage directions even call for it:
    No realism.
    Nothing superfluous.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only four actors.
  • No Ending: Annette goes on full Freak Out mode after Véronique yells at her to go out and throws her handbag across the room, then the phone rings. It's the Houillés' younger daughter, Camille, and the characters are left contemplating the fate of the hamster.
  • Only Sane Man: Michel and Annette seem to fill this role in the first half of the play. Both are soon revealed to be more than they seem.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Oh, so much. At least until the "passive" goes completely out the window.
  • Predatory Big Pharma: Alan is an Amoral Attorney who believes that there's no such thing as altruistic behavior and works for a pharmaceutical company. Over the night, he's working on an apparent scandal related to a medication with fatal side effects, which Michel's mother is taking.
  • Real Time: The play is one continuous scene, taking place in real time.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Mild version. Michel did not want Alain and Annette to come over, but nonetheless made a real effort to make them welcome, and lasts for quite a long time before losing it.
  • Shout-Out: The Reilles' nickname for each other, "Toutou", is taken from "Via con me", an Italian song by Paolo Contenote .
    • In the English translation, the nickname becomes "Woof-woof", this time a reference to the novelty song "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" by Patti Paige.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The conflict in the play comes largely from the four characters having different positions on this scale, with Alain being the most cynical and Véronique the most idealistic. Neither the idealistic nor the cynical viewpoint is shown to be the right one; rather, the script ridicules both sides of the argument.
  • Stepford Smiler: Everyone.
  • The Stoic: Alain in general remains straight-faced throughout most of the conversation. ...Until of course, his cell phone is destroyed.
  • Strawman Political: Sort of: usually with this trope, a political view is oversimplified for the sole purpose of discrediting it, and thus making the alternative more credible. All four of them have opposing views that are shown to be severely flawed in some way (and thus might be considered discredited), but since none of them are ultimately suggested to be right, the usual purpose behind a Strawman Political is averted.
  • Straw Misogynist: Both Alain and Michel have some very sexist views, that clearly paint them in an even more negative light. It should be noted that the women are not presented as being much better, so it's more a case of everyone being wrong.
  • Straw Nihilist: Alain is an unashamed nihilist.
    • Once he gets drunk, Michel gives Véronique a lecture on the hypocrisy of her liberal sensibilities.
  • Tempting Fate: See the page quote.
  • Title Drop: Alain references by name the eponymous God of Carnage when discussing his open nihilism.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The main story is intervowen with the scandal surrounding the pharmaceutical company which involves Michel's mother as well, mainly told through Alain's (one-sided) phone calls.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: All four, to a greater or lesser degree.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Annette throwing up over the coffee table serves as a major turning point in the play.
  • Villainous BSoD: Happens to Alain immediately after his wife disposes of his phone.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Michel apparently has a crippling fear of rodents.