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Arts & Life

Married Couple in Life and on Stage in "God of Carnage"

Photo: Cynthia Levin and courtesy of Unicorn Theatre
Brian Paulette (as Michael Novak) and Cinnamon Schultz (as Veronica Novak) in Unicorn Theatre and Kansas City Actors Theatre?s co-production, "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton.

It's rare that a two-career couple finds itself at the same work site at the exact same time. But such is the case for the next several weeks for actors Cinnamon Schultz and Brian Paulette - married in life and on stage in the Kansas City premiere of "God of Carnage."

By Steve Walker

Kansas City, Mo. –
KCUR's Steve Walker reports on what happens when a happily married couple plays one whose union isn't so blissful.

Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage" is set in motion after two pre-teen boys have a row in a Brooklyn Park. Both sets of parents decide to sit down over refreshments and civilly hash things out.

Playing one of the mothers is Cinnamon Schultz, who opens the play - and sets its volatile tone - with the following:

"This is our statement. You'll be doing your own, of course," reads Schultz (as Veronica Novak). "At 5:30 p.m. on the 3rd of November in Cobble Hill Park, following a verbal altercation, Benjamin Raleigh, 11, armed with a stick, struck our son, Henry Novak, in the face. This action resulted in - apart from the swelling of the upper lip - the breaking of two incisors, including injury to the nerve of the right incisor."

That things don't go well from there is an understatement.

Playing Henry's father is Brian Paulette; he and Schultz have been married for 14 years. Before a recent rehearsal, the actors say that, though they've played couples before, now, with two kids under 8, their lives are more complicated.

Schultz says this is their first time acting in the same production since having children. "We still love working together," she says. "It's nice having that automatic connection when you're on stage."

But her husband, Brian Paulette, adds that it's challenging to find babysitters, especially for tech rehearsals. "Ten hours in a row two days straight of even finding a sitter willing to do that can be tough," says Paulette. "And leaning on family only goes so far."

It helps that the show is just a one-act and under 90 minutes. And they say it's stirring their creative juices playing a couple so different from themselves.

"His wife, who likes to shove her opinions on everyone, she's very self-righteous," says Paulette. Schultz adds, "Because she's right."
"She's always right," says Paulette. "He pretty quickly tries to appease them and kind of goes against her a little bit, which creates some conflict between us."

Schultz says the issue of taking sides remains in flux. "At one point, it's the girls against the guys. And at another point, it's couple versus couple," she says. "And at another it's almost like the couples reverse as far as sides go, and then it can be three against one. It goes all over the place."
"It's a constant switching of alliances," agrees Paulette.

Both actors add that there are built-in advantages to living with your co-star.

"That's what makes it nice with rehearsing, is we can go home, going over our lines, discovering things we perhaps wouldn't have if we weren't working with each other," says Schultz. "Which makes it extra nice."

Paulette says because they know each other so well, it makes it easier to make discoveries in the rehearsal process.

"Most of the time when you're playing a married couple, you've got to get over that period of, 'Yeah, okay, so we're married. What's your name again?'," says Paulette. "So getting to know the other actor and that awkward stage in the beginning, we don't have any of that."
"And it's making this rehearsal process speed along really, really nicely," adds Schultz.

Playing their antagonists are Kansas City actors Melinda McCrary and John Rensenhouse.

Director Roman Polanski's film version of the play, now just called "Carnage," and starring three Oscar winners among its four-person cast, opens later this fall.

Unicorn Theatre presents "God of Carnage," a co-production with Kansas City Actors Theatre, in partnership with UMKC Theatre
October 19 - November 13, 2011
Unicorn Theatre's Jerome Stage
3828 Main Street
Kansas City, Mo.

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