Can two couples have a civil conversation when things begin to unravel? That question is the central idea of the Alliance Theatre’s production of the play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, which stars Jasmine Guy as Veronica. A veteran of the Atlanta stage as well as in Hollywood and on Broadway, Guy was last seen at the Alliance Theatre in Pearl Cleage’s The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One-Hundred Years.
“I love working here,” Guy mentions. “I love the Alliance family, and I am very excited about the production; it has been a great experience.” Being part of the play is something she feels is a thrilling and unique experience. “This is a great play,” she says.
In the play, two couples get together to have a civil discussion, but, during the course of the conversation, things begin to get ugly, and while it may be seem like the set of a powerfully gripping drama, it is an engaging comedy instead. “God of Carnage is a very heavy title for a comedy,” Guy comments. She goes on to say that the “deeper it gets, the funnier it gets.”
Guy plays the character of Veronica, who is writing a book about the tragedy in Darfur. “I love her passion. I love her earnest ability to stand by her convictions even though it is unpopular,” she states. “She never veers from her original mission.”
While other productions have featured mixed races, this production is the first to feature an all African-American cast. Although Guy feels that the characters in the play are universal, “there are a couple lines that hit home in a different way — coming out of our mouths is a little different.”
Her character with her interest in Darfur and Africa, for instance, has a “different significance” when played by an African-American actress. In addition she mentions that there is a line about the Ku Klux Klan that is “more acidic” when portrayed by a white actor, “but it is still pretty cutting.” She goes on to mention other racial epithets that take on a different feel to them in this production that in others.
Regardless of the cast, she feels that the characters are universal and the can be enjoyed by anyone. According to Guy’s observation of audience reactions during the dress rehearsal, it is the men who have been showing the most vocal response to play. She says, “I haven’t been in a play where men are so vocal, cracking up and applauding.” For her the dialogue seems to be “what men think but don’t say to wives.”
Many theater-goers will find it strange that men are more vocal in the audience, but it is not the only unusual occurrence. While the production at the Alliance Theatre is running, a movie of the film, which stars Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster, will open.
For many audience members (and cast members), interest exists in seeing the film, but for some, including Guy, it is something that will be viewed after the play. As much as the movie interests her, Guy “won’t see it while doing the play,” because she does not “want to influence or undermine” her own performance.
“I am going to wait,” she says. Instead, she wants to develop her own interpretation of character before seeing someone else play the role. “It is interesting to have the movie come out,” she reflects, and for her it will not be the first time this type of event has occurred. She has experienced a smilar situation while she was performing in Chicago on Broadway during the movie’s premiere.
When asked what she will be working on next, Guy mentions several items that will keep her busy. A writer, she will complete a play based on her book about the life of Afeni Shakur. For those hoping to see her on the screen again, she will begin filming an independent film in April. Furthermore, she is pitching a television pilot to the networks and she will continue her many speaking engagements.
During her career, this native Atlantan has been able to find success in various mediums, and she has much praise about Atlanta’s theater scene. She sees it on the cusp of being a major player in theater, hoping that it continues on its road to be a feeder into Broadway like Chicago, Washington D.C. or San Francisco.
“I think the work is here, the talent is here. We just need to learn as a community to embrace the arts,” she comments. “Each company has its own mission, and I feel it is very important to keep those companies alive. Atlanta can do that; it can feed onto the Broadway stage.”
For its part, the Alliance Theatre has been working to increase the clout and image of Atlanta theater and continues with God of Carnage. Guy encourages audiences to “come expect to have a great time with self-reflection.” She goes on to mention that the play will “make you think, but you will have a good time. Don’t let the title fool you.”
God of Carnage, directed by Kent Gash, opens January 18 at the Alliance Theatre after a week of previews, and it plays through January 29. For tickets and more information, please visit the Alliance Theatre’s website.
By Kenny Norton