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Arena opens with 'Carnage' at Vanderbilt

Arena Players has a vagabond past -- playing here and there -- including in its 61-year history a stint at the Idlewild Airport (now JFK) traffic tower. But after 39 years at its two East Farmingdale theaters, founder-artistic director Frederic De Feis appeared to be settled in.

Now, at 85, he's moved again, this time to familiar turf: the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, where for 15 years he's staged children's shows and summertime Shakespeare.

Arena opens in its new, full-time home with an auspicious Long Island premiere. "God of Carnage," 2009's Tony and Olivier awards best-play winner, was to launch Arena's fall season a year ago. But rights were pulled for the film adaptation directed by Roman Polanski. "Carnage," the movie, made its world premiere Sept. 1 at the Venice Film Festival and its U.S. premiere Sept. 30 at the New York Film Festival.

"Sometimes patience is rewarded," De Feis says.

'GOD OF CARNAGE' What would you do if a kid hit your son with a stick and chipped a couple of teeth? If you're Michael and Veronica, parents of 11-year-old Ferdinand, you'd invite Alan and Annette, parents of Bruno, over for a chat. The evening begins amiably. But then someone has the bad idea of serving drinks.

Michael is an attorney tethered to his cellphone. Veronica says she's in "wealth management" -- her husband's. Alan, a wholesaler, is an up-by-the-bootstraps kind of guy. Annette is writing a book about Darfur and her moral superiority is unassailable -- until it gets assailed by, well, we won't say who picks which fight.

Arena's "Carnage" stars Linda Ramzel and Michael Lang, spouses in real life, as Bruno's parents, with Stacey Wallace and Bertrand Emmett as Ferdinand's.

NEW HOME, SWEET HOME Arena will play in the revamped Carriage House at Vanderbilt, with its fixed stage and 100 seats moved from East Farmingdale. That means no second stage. Arena performed 18 to 20 shows a year at its former home. Now, it will be 10 to 12. De Feis says he's "investigating" other second-stage options. But Lance Reinheimer, Vanderbilt's interim director, says expansion could take place on museum grounds.

"Our vision is to use our planetarium as a cultural venue," he says. Due to reopen in the spring, the Vanderbilt Planetarium is getting a new star projector and surround sound. "We can easily accommodate a portable stage in the new setup," Reinheimer says. Arena could bring its main-stage shows to the planetarium and retain the Carriage House for children's shows and a second-stage season.

"It's perfect timing," says Reinheimer. "Arena will bring in people who wouldn't normally be coming here. They'll discover who we are."


WHAT Long Island premiere of "God of Carnage"

WHEN | WHERE Friday and Saturday nights at 8, Sunday at 3 p.m., Vanderbilt Museum Carriage House, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport

INFO $20 Fridays and Sundays, $25 Saturdays, through Nov. 6; arenaplayers.org, 631-854-5579

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