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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Recommends: 'Carnage, A Comedy'

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V.J. Foster and Steven M. Porter star in Carnage, A Comedy at the Actors' Gang. | Photo by Jean-Louis Darville.

Carnage, A Comedy, currently running at the Actor’s Gang Theatre in Culver City, was written more than 20 years ago by Adam Simon and Tim Robbins (yes, that Tim Robbins), but its focus on the fluidity of truth, freedom and democracy still resonates today. It’s an excellent work that challenges current political and religious perceptions – with really wicked dialogue to boot.

The central premise revolves around the rise and fall of televangelist Cotton Slocum (V.J. Foster), a sleazy blowhard of a preacher that sees nothing wrong in choreographing altar moves for Sunday sermons or taking prayer junkets to Vegas. With this one great line, he reminds the audience of his true calling: “This is not a nonprofit corporation…this is a church!”

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But Slocum doesn't lose his empire - God's Happy Acre in Texas - the 80s televangelists way (sex scandals a la James Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart.) Nope. That would be too easy. Carnage, A Comedy delves into a crazy world of mercenary armies, survivalists, unhappy couples, Armageddon, sinister ministers building armies of God and--last but not least--a church mascot named Foo Foo Bunny.

By a series of twisted plot points, Slocum's world is rocked, and in the second act, the play takes a much darker turn. The preacher thinks the rapture occurred, and he was left behind. Meanwhile his protégé has taken over God's Happy Acre with nefarious intent.

The script was slightly updated to reflect the current Bush II reign era, but Carnage has stayed as intact and as relevant as it was during the Bush I presidency. The few original musical numbers in the play, written by David Robbins and slightly updated by cast member Cameron Dye, add the right touch of levity or darkness when needed.

The cast is top-notch and the energy on stage is amazing, but it's Foster's Slocum that's a wonder to watch on stage. We'll even forgive the obvious fat pillow tucked under his shirt. Some might see his performance as borderline histrionic, but that's exactly what the preacher is about -- passion. Slocum is a born scene chewer and Foster plays it to the hilt. (And if you're sitting in the front rows, prepare to get wet when he spews his lines).

The play runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm until March 8. Tickets are $25 and $20 for students, but all Thursday performances are pay-what-you-can.

Carnage, A Comedy // The Actors' Gang @ the Ivy Substation // 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City.

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