Rising to the surface: ‘God of Carnage’


Casey Howe and Lily Roe rehearse their scene ad nauseum for “God of Carnage.” KELSEY CHERWINKA
Casey Howe and Lily Roe rehearse their scene ad nauseum for “God of Carnage.”

Hannah Jones/Winonan

It is difficult to conceal a bag of fake vomit. This was apparent when it came time for Lily Roe, one of the lead actors in the department of theatre and dance’s upcoming production, “God of Carnage,” to strap one on.

“God of Carnage,” a play by Yasmina Reza, is about two sets of parents meeting to discuss a fight their sons had on the middle school playground. Brady Beckman and Megan Smith play husband-and-wife-duo Michael and Veronica.

“Playing a mother is difficult,” Smith said.

“Playing Megan’s husband is difficult,” Beckman said.

This isn’t the first time Beckman and Smith have been paired onstage.

“It’s kind of like an old married couple relationship,” Beckman said of his relationship with Smith. “Like, we should probably be divorced, but we stay together just because.”

Roe and Casey Howe play the opposing couple, Annette and Alan. While Roe was putting on the puke rig, Howe was testing out a sharp gray suit, which would take the brunt of the vomit.

This was Roe’s first rehearsal with the “puke machine.” For a fairly simple bodily function, vomiting can be surprisingly complicated to simulate.

Anthony Stewart, who had been working on the fine points of the puke machine for weeks, helped Roe fasten a pair of clear plastic tubes around her throat. A sack full of a mixture of oatmeal, chicken and rice was fitted snugly against her back.

During the course of the night, three different consistencies of fake vomit would be tested.

Jess Clarke, the stage manager for the production, called for everyone’s attention.

“Okay, it’s 6:15,” she said. “Let’s get started.”

“God of Carnage” will be Clarke’s debut as a stage manager. Clarke has done plenty of work behind the scenes for numerous Winona State University theater productions, including the recent children’s show, “Peter Pan.” Stage management, Clarke said, was a “complete different monster.”

Nonetheless, she said “God of Carnage” was going fairly well.

“Everything’s been going pretty smoothly,” she said. A crew member asked Roe if the vomit tubes were digging too much into her neck. Roe shook her head, but didn’t take her hand away from the tubes. After she put on a shirt over the puke rig, it was almost invisible.

Satisfied, Clarke sat down to watch the actors rehearse the vomit scene.

“God of Carnage” takes four civilized, married adults and strips them down to what lies beneath: pure, animal conflict. The crude, unexpected arrival of vomit onto the scene is just one step in the characters’ descent from civility to savagery, giving into wild emotions that are buried just beneath the surface.

“What’s really difficult is playing to the subtext—their true feelings,” Beckman said. “You’ve got to balance what you’re character’s feeling and how they’re acting.”

He paused.

“And being Megan’s husband,” he said again.

The actors took their positions. Beckman and Smith sat on one side of the set and Roe and Howe stood on the other.

Clarke and the crew sat in an array in front of the stage and waited for the moment of truth.

A lot of work had been put into one sack of fake vomit, and they were expecting, in a word, a “mess.”

Roe assumed her character and put her hand to her scarf, just over the plastic tubing underneath.

“I feel nauseous,” she said.

“God of Carnage” will be running in the Black Box Theater in the Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, until Sunday, Nov. 24.


Contact Hannah at [email protected]