Smack dab in the middle of mediocrity. Chris Bennion

Nobody reported hearing a giant sucking sound over Seattle Center recently, but there must've been one—between the asinine A Doctor in Spite of Himself currently playing at Intiman Theatre (read the review at and the relentlessly vapid God of Carnage next door at Seattle Repertory Theatre, the neighborhood seems to have experienced a sudden, catastrophic brain drain.

So. The jig's up, Yasmina Reza. You're a menace to your profession. Your most popular plays, like Art and Carnage (which won a Tony Award in 2009—what the fuck were those people thinking?), are what's wrong with theater. Everything that happens in the 90 minutes of Carnage could have been distilled into two minutes that might have made an interesting first scene. On its own, Carnage is nothing.

I would announce a spoiler alert, but there is nothing to spoil: Two couples meet in a white, condo-looking living room to discuss how the young son of the home team (liberal, working-middle class, dressed in earth tones) got smacked in the face by the young son of the visiting team (acerbic, rich, dressed in power blacks). By the end of their long argument, during which nothing is resolved and nothing is revealed, one of the power-blacks has gotten drunk, thrown a bunch of tulips on the floor, and shouted. You will notice a parallel with Art. Both plays are built of the dullest people saying the dullest things about the dullest subjects (in Art: "What is art?"; in Carnage: "Aren't people inherently selfish and territorial?"), punctuated with a meaningless act of violence to an inanimate object (in Art, a painting; in Carnage, a bouquet).

You could read Carnage as a commentary on class—poorer people have a sense of accountability and consequences; richer people do not—but even that gives the play more credit than it's worth. The entirety of its contents can be summed up in an old joke that's popular among the Southern women in my family: Two debutantes, Nancy and Debbie, are talking. (Imagine the following in soft, almost breathy Southern accents.) Nancy: "My daddy gave me a Cadillac for Christmas." Debbie: "Thaaas nice." Nancy: "My daddy is taking me to Paris for vacation." Debbie: "Thaaas nice." Nancy: "My daddy bought me the most expensive dress for my coming-out party." Debbie: "Thaaas nice." Nancy: "What'd your daddy get you?" Debbie: "My daddy sent me to finishing school." Nancy: "Finishing school? What's that?" Debbie: "Finishing school is where you learn to say 'Thaaas nice' instead of 'Fuck you.'"

Boom. Done. That's the play.

To be fair, the audience at the performance I attended absolutely adored God of Carnage. Nobody seemed to mind that there was, in fact, no carnage, other than the violated tulips and actress Bhama Roget shooting a long stream of chalky-white vomit from her mouth, Exorcist-­style, to break the tedium of the dialogue. Roget had just been consuming clafouti and coffee. So why was her barf so pale and liquid? Because Yasmina Reza couldn't write a moving and true moment, not even a moment involving voluminous amounts of special-effects barf, if her life were on the line.

The most profound mystery about God of Carnage isn't why it's 90 minutes of nothing besides a single repetition of Hobbesian anxiety—that beneath a thin veneer of civilization, we're all selfish brutes—but its effect on its audience. Why do people like this play? Is it because they lead extraordinarily boring lives?

Ultimately, that question belongs to sociologists and the pimps at CBS who peddle Two and a Half Men—they're the experts on dullardry. As for the actors, all of whom have done great work in the past—Roget, Hans Altwies, Stranger Genius Amy Thone, Denis Arndt—congratulations on the paycheck. And it's nice to see you having some fun up there, getting all frothy over conversations and arguments that (textually speaking) have zero traction and zero stakes. Your characters all clearly hate each other, and yet we can see the front door throughout the whole play. How could Reza think none of you would just leave the room? Did your director, Wilson Milam—who has directed some stellar productions at the Rep, including The Seafarer and Glengarry Glen Ross—never ask the question? If so, the answer is not evident.

On one hand, I feel like I've just kicked a puppy: The play means well. On the other hand, its idea of "means well" is "asks you to pay tens of dollars so it can urinate on your trouser leg." Maybe that puppy deserves a boot in the ass after all. recommended