A little boy knocks out two teeth of his playground playmate.

That evening, the two sets of parents come together to discuss the matter. Before long, they engage in their own confrontation, the two couples attacking each other and acting more childish than their kids.

The living-room scenario plays out in Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning play “God of Carnage,” opening Friday at Portland Stage Company. It’s a biting comedic drama full of wit, savage dialogue and many uncomfortable moments.

Anita Stewart, artistic and executive director at Portland Stage, tabbed the show because she believes a lot of people can relate to its central premise.

“What follows on stage reminds me of the conversations I often play out in my head when I imagine confronting the neighbor with the dog who doesn’t pick up the mess, the school administrator who comes up with a curriculum choice that seems utterly crazy, or a politician who spins every event to fit their agenda,” she writes in the playbill. “I imagine myself in all sorts of brutal scenarios that will never, in fact, be realized.”

In “God of Carnage,” they are fully realized. These folks hold nothing back.

The show won a Tony in 2009 for Best Play. It also won the Best New Play award that year at London’s Olivier Awards. Roman Polanski is directing a film version starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.

It’s one of the hottest theater properties out there right now, and Portland Stage is not the only Maine company producing the show: Everyman Repertory Theatre presents its version Nov. 18-27 at the Camden Opera House. The Portland Stage version is the Maine premiere.

Sam Buggeln directs the Portland show. He has worked at Portland Stage many times over the years, almost always directing comedies. His credits include “Noises Off” and “The 39 Steps,” among others, but he says “God of Carnage” is something else altogether.

“This one has rhythm, a fast pace and it’s very funny,” Buggeln said. “But it’s a different kind of funny, a different kind of farce. It has emotional and intellectual violence, and the kind of violence that can happen when very polite people who are pushed to moments of incivility when passion is mixed in.”

The show remains true to the original, which was set in Paris and written in French. It was translated into English, and when it opened in New York in 2009, it was set in Brooklyn.

Buggeln opted to return to a Paris setting for the Portland show, though it will be performed in English. It takes place in real time, with the 90 minutes that transpires on stage reflecting the time it takes for both couples to tear each other apart.

The play has a cast of four: Scott Barrow, Amy Bodnar, Kevin Cutts and Kate Udall. All but Barrow are new to Portland Stage. Bodnar has worked at Maine State Music Theatre and the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Cutts saw the show on Broadway.

“I really wanted to do it when I saw it,” he said. “Some of it is dark, but I laughed hard throughout. I thought it was really funny.”

Udall calls the show “realistic and absurd,” and says “the challenge of doing this play is that it changes quickly and goes to not an untrue place, but to a larger-than-life kind of place. It’s tricky to make it recognizable human behavior.”

For Bodnar, the attraction of “God of Carnage” is the opportunity to play a character “who says things that nobody would say out loud — but she is saying them out loud, which is always great fun.”

Without giving away too much of the plot, suffice to say the kind of violence that plays out in “God of Carnage” involves verbal violence and a little bit of physical confrontation.

“Let’s just say that it’s outside the bounds of what people should do in the living room,” Buggeln said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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