Aptly billed as “A comedy of manners without the manners,” God of Carnage (playing now through May 29th at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles) has every appearance of a great play. It’s beautifully staged, has a terrific cast, lots of laughs, and at a tight, intermission-free 90 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s only after you leave the theater and think back on it that you realize that it didn’t really add up to anything. Not that that necessarily matters.

Alan (Jeff Daniels) and Annette (Hope Davis) visit the home of Michael (James Gandolfini) and Veronica (Marcia Gay Harden) to have drinks and discuss a playground fight that occurred between their two sons. Respectable members of the middle class in a gentrified section of Brooklyn, the two couples make an initial effort to work out an amicable resolution, but soon enough the boys’ conflict takes a backseat to the adults’ own issues, and the evening deteriorates into accusations and insults, excessive drinking, and the near-total destruction of Michael and Veronica’s tastefully appointed living room. Not to mention a truly spectacular display of stomach sickness.

The cast (all of whom performed in the original Broadway production) is uniformly excellent, and they’re clearly enjoying the sharp, witty dialogue they’ve been given by playwright Yasmina Reza (translated here from the original French). Unsurprisingly, Marcia Gay Harden won the 2009 Tony for her role as Veronica, and the rest of the cast all received nominations as well.

What is a little surprising, on the other hand, is that God of Carnage won for best play. Not that it isn’t a fun night at the theater; it’s just that the play itself, beneath all the quotable dialogue, is pretty thin stuff. There aren’t any particularly unique insights into human nature, and weighty topics such as misogyny and racial prejudice are tossed around only to make facile observations about the hypocrisy of bourgeois liberals, observations that probably won’t come as much of a surprise to any of the bourgeois liberals that make up most of the play’s audience.

Does any of that really matter, though? You have four great actors in top comedic form, playing off each other like a well-oiled machine and making you laugh for 90 minutes. Speaking as a bourgeois liberal myself, I’d say that’s enough for the price of a ticket.