CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," goes the classic children's rhyme.
But The Charleston Stage Company's production of "God of Carnage," reminds us that people often underestimate the power of words.
One needs only to turn on the news or pick up the newspaper to witness numerous accounts of everyday human encounters escalating -- often to the point of violence -- over a handful of carelessly delivered words.
"God of Carnage" illustrates how a seemingly innocent situation can devolve into chaos within the span of a few hours.
The play's storyline, set in modern-day Brooklyn, involves two pairs of parents who meet to discuss how to handle a situation after one couple's child hurts the other's while playing at the park. Polite, civil conversation unravels, and allegiances are formed and then broken between each of the four adults as time wears on.
The single-set, one-act play features a modest cast of four: Greg Harpold and Bethany Cline as Michael and Veronica Novak; and Rob Boone and Kim Javins as Alan and Annette Raleigh.
The adults slide from rational to hysterical as the discussion about their children deteriorates into finger-pointing and shouting matches over minor annoyances that have nothing to do with the kids.
A constantly ringing phone, a bottle of rum and a missing hamster figure prominently in the offbeat storyline as well.
The conflict raises an existential question: Can a civilized culture escape its savage roots?