‘God of Carnage’ opening this week at Theatre Aspen
Special to The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘God of Carnage,’ presented by Theatre Aspen
Where: Hurst Theatre, Rio Grande Park
When: July 17-Aug. 3
How much: $30-$116
Tickets: Theatre Aspen box office; theatreaspen.org
Director Karen Azenberg calls “God of Carnage” “one of those plays that has a terrifying mix of comedy and reality.”
Winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play and the Olivier Award for Best Comedy, “God of Carnage” follows the story of two couples who have come together to make amends after a violent altercation between their two 11-year-old boys on the playground at school.
“It is a pretty realistic portrayal of a certain segment of society which yields a humorous and thought-provoking result and leaves us all asking ourselves if we are as civilized as we think we are,” Azenberg said.
As the current artistic director of Pioneer Theatre Co. in Salt Lake City, Azenberg is excited to make her Aspen debut this summer. Despite this being her first summer at Theatre Aspen, she has known producing director Jed Bernstein since they were kids.
“I find it fascinating that two kids from the Upper West Side of New York City are running theaters in the mountains,” said Azenberg, former president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. “For me, the cast is perfect. All four of them are perfect for this play. They are smart, funny and are completely dedicated to finding everything they can to make this production a great experience for the Theatre Aspen audiences.”
Most recently, Azenberg directed Sting’s “The Last Ship” — an original musical with music and lyrics by Sting.
“Sting generously allowed us to rework some of the show and he came to Salt Lake City to see it,” Azenberg said.
Joan Hess (playing the character of Veronica) is back for her sixth season at Theatre Aspen. Being the eighth of nine children, Hess watched her older siblings perform in plays and musicals throughout her childhood.
“I guess it was pretty obvious what I would do for my life’s work. I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I love and hopefully make an impact on others,” Hess said.
With only four actors in the show, the cast is extremely close-knit.
“These incredible actors are seasoned, fun, generous, supportive, trustworthy and they crack me up on a daily basis,” Hess said. “I love working with these three talented actors who are all willing to play, as well as take the gloves off and get messy. Under the guidance of our great director, Karen Azenberg, this will be unlike any play I’ve ever tackled before.”
Torsten Hillhouse plays the character of Michael — the father of the victim child.
“I absolutely can relate to Michael, as I do with any character I play — otherwise I’d be too detached from it,” he said. “Michael is tricky though because he displays a lot of odious behaviors which doesn’t feel like me, but that’s the challenge. You have to embrace the warts of your character and leave the judging to the audience.”
Hillhouse has been acting his whole life but never envisioned himself becoming a professional actor until after college.
“I thought I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a lawyer. Oh well, too late now. Sorry, dad!” Hillhouse said. “The cast of ‘God of Carnage’ is so much fun to work with. Everyone is always game to jump in and figure things out but always with a sense of humor. We spend half the day cracking each other up. Oftentimes to the jargon of our director. Come prepared to wince in self-reflection and to laugh in relief.”
Azenberg is finding unique pleasures in her Theatre Aspen debut, both onstage and off.
“I have known about Theatre Aspen for years and am thrilled I get a chance to be a part of it this season,” she said. “There aren’t too many other theaters where a bear and her three cubs walk across the rehearsal studio parking lot.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.