Davis, who made her Broadway debut in 1992 in Two Shakespearean Actors and can currently be seen as a regular on HBO's "In Treatment," was not only lured back to the stage by Reza's Oliver Award-winning script, but also by the opportunity to work with Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden.
Only Harden and Gandolfini were attached to the project when Carnage's Tony-nominated director Matthew Warchus first sent Davis the script. "I thought it was really crazy," Davis said of the comedy at the recent Tony nominees press reception. "I love [Marcia]. Marcia hasn't been onstage [for nearly] 13 years. It's been a long time, but I saw her in Angels in America, and I've never forgotten her performance, and I wanted to work with her. I'm a huge fan of Jim's, and I just thought it sounded like a really exciting group of people."
God of Carnage, which plays out like a dramatic 90-minute sprint to the finish, turned out to be a challenge for its starry cast. Davis credits director Warchus with steering his ensemble cast through the show's paces.
"Luckily Matthew Warchus has an absolutely level head at all times as we were doing a lot of cursing and screaming, because we all had a really hard time learning our lines cause they're so quick," Davis said. "He managed to really work it out. Matthew had directed the play before and had figured out some things that work and some things that don't. It was a tricky rehearsal process, but as we came to the end of it we knew that it was going to be exciting."
Davis and her co-stars all earned Leading Actor Tony nominations for their work in God of Carnage, which centers on two couples attempting to amicably resolve a schoolyard fight between their children. Checked egos begin to flair, and all hell breaks loose. "It takes a lot of energy, [but] it's really exhilarating when it works," Davis admitted. "Some nights when we're not all [together], it's not all perfect, it's hard. We've had a couple nights where we've started giggling here and there when something goes wrong — 'cause you're really riding the edge of hilarity and hysteria, and it's not that hard to tip over into all of us melting down."
The actress also performs one of the play's more "explosive" moments, onstage vomiting, which results in a few ruined limited edition art books and sometimes splatters the front row. "God willing, it's always worked, and it continues to work. It's interesting there's a very different audience reaction. Most people find it hilarious, but every once in a while the entire house is horrified. They just think it's absolutely repulsive!"
God of Carnage, starring Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini, plays the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Tickets are currently on sale through Aug. 2.
For further information, visit GodofCarnage.