Things Unseen offers ‘God of Carnage’: Black comedy won a 2009 Tony Award

Courtesy photo Rehearsing for Things Unseen's production of "God of Carnage" are, from left, David Misera, Amy Misera, Robin Reese and Michael Manfred.

The play “God of Carnage” brings a tale as old as time about the beauty and the beast in all of us; civilization vs. chaos to The Church in the Middle of the Block Cultural Center and presented by Things Unseen Theatre Sept. 13-16.

The play features two couples who meet after their sons’ fight, to discuss the encounter.

The couples are played by Robin Reese, Michael Manfred, Amy Misera and David Misera, a couple off-stage as well.

“It’s really about whether these four apparently educated, progressive, enlightened people can remain so in handling the situation their children’s scuffle has put them in. Will civilization win? Or their darker, primitive instincts?,” said director Thomas Liszka. “Hint: It’s a black comedy, so bet on the darker instincts! We’ll be performing the play as written and translated. As a recent 2009 Tony winner for Best Play, it doesn’t really need any ‘updating’ to make it relevant to today’s issues. And the darker side of human nature is fairly constant, from the cave to the cell phone.”

The play includes themes of misogyny, racial prejudice, homophobia and similar issues so is best suited for adults, he recommends.

Universal themes explain its international appeal and it is the third-longest running Broadway play of the 2000s.

Marcia Gay Harding won a Tony award for best actress and Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and James Gandolfini were nominated in 2009.

TV medical drama fans know Harding most recently in CBS’s “Code Black”.

Written in French by Yasmina Reza, “God of Carnage” was first presented in an English translation in 2008 in London where it won the Olivier Award.

It has been produced in German, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia, Serbia, Austra-lia, Romania, Ireland, Belgium, Chili and United Arab Emirates.

“Its success derives from its exploration of a universal theme that goes back to Beowulf and the mother of the boy who has his two incisors broken when the other boy hits him in the mouth with a stick.

“These are rich characters,” Reese said. “They are older than the 20-somethings you typically see so it is a great play for older actors. It’s funny, poignant and irritating in a really funny way.”

Reese, an associate professor of theater at Penn State Altoona, said she originally saw the play performed in German in Berlin and later the Broadway production and fell in love with it.

Reese earned a master of fine arts in acting from the prestigious The Actors Studio Drama School in New York City, which Bradley Cooper also attended.

“One of the reasons I liked my character is that she is what actors call an A to Z role, where so many different colors — personality shades — are revealed.”

“God of Carnage” director Liszka speaks highly of Reese, Manfred and the Miseras whom he describes as “four really talented people who so far in rehearsal are giving virtuoso performances to well-rounded, meaty, nicely drawn characters. It’s no accident that all four Broadway actors were nominated for Tony Awards, with one of them, Marcia Gay Harden, winning best actress.

“They had a lot to work with, and our troop promises great things as well. Dave and Amy Misera, who have been married for 28 years, bring that much experience to their roles. And, while they’ve never been known for anything but love and understanding for each other, they do an amazing job of sniping on stage,” he added.

The Miseras met doing theater and have appeared together before, but not as husband and wife. Once their children arrived they alternated doing productions.

“David calls this ‘marriage maintenance’ because it forces us to go out, stay awake and talk instead of vegging,” Amy said laughing. “We do a lot of fighting on stage.”

Liszka describes “Veronica,” played by Reese, as “the most apparently and self-indulgently enlightened one of the bunch, who also has the furthest to fall as the good intentions of all come crashing down. And Mike is the good-natured, peacemaker, trying to make the bad feelings go away with rum, klafouti and cigars. They all make my job easy!”

Staff Writer Patt Keith can be reached at 949-7030.

If you go

What: “God of Carnage”

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 13-14 and 2 p.m. Sept. 16

Where: The Church in the Middle of the Block, 215 5th Ave., Altoona

Tickets: Cost $12 at the door and available at select Thompson’s Pharmacy locations; call 934-3504