Projectile puking plays leading role in Signature’s ‘God of Carnage’


College students (Bethany Anne Lind and Danny Gavigan) get intimate in "Really Really," a Signature hit that’s headed to New York. . (Photo by Scott Suchman/Signature Theatre)
June 12, 2012

You should probably know before reading this column that we are about to go into a serious discussion about the logistics of vomit.

This is not just your regular, run-of-the-mill, somebody-hold-my-hair-back-so-I-can-boot-and-rally kind of throwing-up experience. This is purging projectile-style. Long-distance retching. Perhaps the right verb is “spewing.”

If you have made it this far, congratulations! The rest of this article is for you. Everyone else, move right along. There’s some exciting, non-regurgitation related news in the next item.

In Signature Theatre’s production of “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, actress Vanessa Lock’s character, with husband in tow, is trying to apologize to another couple whose child her son punched on the playground. About 15 minutes into the performance at the Arlington theater, Lock throws up all over the victim’s parents’ living room.

At ease, front-row ticketholders: It is not real puke! It is a concoction created by Aly Geis­ler, prop master. Geisler reveals her secret cocktail: two baby food containers of peas, four cups of water and a half-serving of oatmeal.


Vanessa Lock gets violently sick on cue n Signature Theatre’s production of "God of Carnage," with the help of Aly Geisler’s special recipe. (Photo by Scott Suchman/Signature Theatre)

In case you are wondering how such a feat is accomplished, one garden-hose-type tube runs from a pressurized tank behind the scenery up the back of a skintight bodysuit Lock wears beneath her costume. The tube ends right at Lock’s wrist and comes pre-loaded with oatmeal.

“We started with cream of wheat, but it was too viscous,” explained Geisler. “Our electric valve didn’t have enough power to turn it off. It was like a waterfall of never-ending vomit.”

Why don’t you work on that visual for a second while Lock describes the purpose this serves in the plot? “I think what that does is it frees up all four of us. It pushes us into another relationship, because I’ve exposed so much of myself,” she said. “I sort of vomit all that out and, okay, now we’re going to show who we really are.”

Back to the engineering: Lock, all juiced up with the oatmeal tube, sits on the couch and plugs herself into a hidden tube in the sofa. This tube is connected to the tank at one end and the couch cushion at the other. When Lock flips a switch, Geisler said, “the air and peas go rushing through. The peas come forward, and the force of that pushes the oatmeal and the peas out.”

Lock insists that “the ‘ick’ factor” is more on her castmates than on her; she gets to run offstage and wash her face while they’re left to mop up the mess. Though this is not to suggest she emerged from the experience unscathed: “I like pea soup,” she said. “But I don’t know that I’ll eat pea soup again anytime soon.”

Through June 24, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, signa­ture-theatre.org, 703-820-9771.

‘Really Really’ exciting news

Paul Downs Colaizzo is ecstatic right now. He describes his level of enthusiasm using words that cannot be printed in a family newspaper.

Will his excitement be dampened when he realizes he got second billing to the puke story? Only time will tell.

For now, Colaizzo is elated, and with good reason: His play “Really Really” is getting its New York premiere at MCC Theater.

“Really Really,” which is about collegiate drunken debauchery and its potentially life-altering consequences, opened at Signature Theatre in Arlington earlier this year. It went on to become the best-selling world-premiere play in the theater’s 22-year history. Before long, offers from New York started pouring in.

“I felt like going off-Broadway was the right next step,” said Colaizzo. MCC was the right fit, he said, because “one of my goals in the theater and life is to appeal to a younger audience. They were very willing to talk about aggressively getting young people and unusual theater crowds into the theater.”

Not to mention, the 26-year-old is a diehard fan of director David Cromer, who will helm the play during MCC’s 2012-13 season. “I’ve never not been emotionally moved by one of his productions.”

MCC’s passion for the project probably didn’t hurt, either; according to Colaizzo, MCC put an offer out without even seeing the show. “They got the script on a Tuesday afternoon and there was an offer Wednesday morning.”

Casting will take place this summer, and rehearsals for the MCC production start one year to the day after they started at Signature, as do previews: Jan. 2 and 31, respectively.

For Colaizzo, who claims he spent much of the run at Signature expecting people to walk out mid-show, the success of “Really Really” is a perpetual shock to the system. “A year ago, I was struggling to make money to eat,” he said. “And then, suddenly, it was me in these meetings and getting [all these] phone calls.”

Now that he is both well-fed and gainfully employed, he’s anxious to see how New York audiences react to his show. Not that he presumes to tell New Yorkers what to think. “New York wants to decide what’s good,” he said. “They don’t want to be told what’s good.”

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