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Her God of Carnage is knocking em for a loop at the Old Globe. Depending on your perspective, or the degree of your defense-mechanisms, the play's either a childish farce, in which two seemingly civilized couples devolve into bug-eyed omnivores, or an indictment of us all.

After about 90 intermissionless minutes of evidence, the playwright has Alan - erstwhile lawyer, now spent space-case - say: "I believe in the god of carnage. He has ruled, uninterruptedly, since the dawn of time."

A page from the curtain, Alan adds: "you're far more authentic when you're showing yourself in a horrible light."


In an eerie, left-field-foul-line sort of way, Carnage unfolds like a legal-brief for Alan's summation. And it concludes with a "case closed" finality.

If you have the merest smidge of optimism about human nature, and would like to suggest a rebuttal, you'd be as out of order as Robert Morgan's shredded set.

Yasmina Reza delights in pushing your envelope. Hold something dear? Got a sacred cow in your pasture? If you let her, she'll dissect that belief using farce and even low comedy as analytical tools.

Daughter of Jewish parents (father an Iranian whose family fled Russia in 1917; mother, Hungarian), Reza wins an award for almost everything she writes. Carnage picked up the Nestroy-Theatreprize, best German language performance; Laurence Olivier Award, Britain's biggie, for Best New Comedy; and a Tony in 2009.

Her Art grabbed every honor after it premiered in 1995, and has since been performed around the world.

Serge pays beaucoup bucks for a blank canvas. Is it "art"? He thinks so, as does Ivan who (a bit like Annette in Carnage) just wants to smooth things over. Marc says no way, and civil discussions of taste tumble into assaults on character.

Tomorrow night (Friday, August 10), Intrepid Shakespeare Company's doing a staged reading of Art at the San Dieguito Academy. As if to up the ante, director Christy Yael cast three co-founders of local companies: Francis Gercke (New Village Arts), Claudio Raygoza (Ion Theatre), and Sean Cox (Intrepid Shakespeare).

Reza has also garnered awards for Life X 3 and The Unexpected Man. I mentioned in a review that I wish someone would do a reading of the latter. A subtle piece that may not attract a wide following, it takes an amazingly insightful look into a writer's mind.

A man and a woman on a train from Paris to Frankfurt. For about the first 50 minutes, they speak in interior monologues. She recognizes him as a world famous writer. She's such a huge fan, she's read every word he ever wrote and has his latest book, The Unexpected Man, in her handbag. Should she bring it out, or leave him to what she's convinced are immortal thoughts?

It's a great set-up, because once inside his head, he's the exact opposite of what the woman expects: he's beating his brains out. When he finally notices, he stamps her with a stereotype: probably "never reads anything."

He asks he he could open a window, and they talk, in unexpected ways, and raise questions about what should matter in life.

Art at Performing Arts Center, San Dieguito Academy, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas; reception at 6:30 p.m., reading at 7:30 p.m.

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