They mean well, and the evening starts on a good footing. But throw in some sumptuous art books and a bottle of rum and, voilà. It’s as if Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf has melded with Lord of the Flies.

Reza deftly shows how easily the veneer of civilization can be peeled from any of us, especially when our kids are at stake.

“All of a sudden, these people take it so incredibly seriously, and they fall into this emotional cul de sac that they can’t find their way out of,” Hamburg says.

Despite their best intentions, they are soon locked into the same childish, aggressive behaviour they are supposedly trying to prevent with their 11-year-olds.

For all the tension between the couples, and within the couples themselves, Hamburg stresses that it is a comedy that should resonate well with Whitehorse audiences.

“There’s an opportunity to see ourselves as funny,” she says.

“We can all identify. We do all sometimes stand on social pretence and try to be high and mighty, and then we realize that actually that’s not the situation at all, and we find ourselves acquiescing as a result, or covering up our faux pas and so on.”

Hamburg’s first foray into theatre was a student work placement in the lighting department of the state theatre company.

While she is grateful for the grounding she received in the technical aspects of theatre, she became “mesmerized by the acting side” and went on to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney.

After acting in theatre and film for a few years, however, she confronted the fact that she “never felt extremely comfortable” as an actor.

“I think the reason that I had troubles as an actor was kind of a precursor to becoming a director, in a way,” she says.

“I found that, rather than it all being subjective and about me, I found it easier to be objective. And yet, I do understand actors from a very personal point of view, [so] I found that it was easier for me to help somebody else than it was to help myself.”

Along the way, she also founded a company called Raucous Theatre Productions, which produced a play by Adelaide playwright Fiona Sprott, with the quirky title of Often I Find That I Am Naked.

After a successful run in Australia, it went on to achieve acclaim at Edinburgh Festival Fringe before showing in London’s West End and Off-Broadway.

For the past decade, Hamburg has concentrated on directing and teaching aspiring professional actors.

She readily admits that God of Carnage demands a lot from its cast.

“There is a lot of humour, but it’s weighted by the fact that these are real people going through real issues, so it’s got substance to it as well as being quite funny,” she says.

“What we’re trying to achieve is that you have very real people in very real situations, but they do spiral out of control.”

With such show-biz heavyweights as Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini (yes, that Tony Soprano) in the Tony-winning Broadway cast, is she concerned that audience members might have preconceived images of the characters?

Her response is immediate.

“We’ve got Deborah Turner-Davis, and we’ve got Rosie Stuckless, and Jay Westover and we’ve also got Stephen Clarke!” she answers, with a huge Aussie laugh.

God of Carnage opens at the Guild Theatre on Thursday, September 22 and runs until Saturday, October 8.