As part of her research, Gunderson looked into the dynamics of abuse and why some women remain in dysfunctional relationships. “I didn’t feel going to actual support groups was right, but I did some chatting in online groups,” says the playwright. She admits it’s a hard issue.
“The character of Nan opens up the show by addressing the audience and saying ‘I bet you’re wondering’ why she has remained,” Gunderson says.
Nonetheless, Gunderson didn’t want to make the piece gloomy. First and foremost, it’s a comedy, albeit a dark one.
“We don’t ever see any abuse — him hitting her — but we get to experience it,” says Gunderson. “I think we come to the truth more through comedy. With comedy you always have a safe place.”
A Decatur native, Gunderson went to graduate school in New York then moved to San Francisco.
Guterman’s character of Simon is unaware that the relationship between Nan and her husband is as bad as it is.
“When he finds out, he is not happy,” Guterman says.
Simon lives in Atlanta, writes a blog and has a “fabulous life.” He and Nan have remained friend over the years.
“They are soulmates — he came out to her — but Simon has never liked Kyle,” Guterman says.
Guterman and Gunderson have worked hard not to make Simon the stereotypical witty gay sidekick.
“That was something that was important to us all, not to make him a cliché,” Guterman says. “He has his sarcasm but we didn’t want him to be all jokey, just the comic relief. We all wanted to find moments where he is real. He’s the one who gives Nan the courage to leave.”
He admits Simon is a lot more extroverted than he is, as well as the characters he is known for, such as the gay teens he played in “The Goat” and “Beautiful Thing,” both at Actor’s Express.
The performer moved to California in 2005 and then to New York, where he eventually met his partner. After some time, they decided to move to Atlanta, which Guterman had not planned to do. Simon is not based on anyone in particular, but Gunderson does admit she has lots of gay friends. “I grew up in theater and my best friends have been gay guys,” she says.
Judith Ivey’s ‘Carapace’
The just-opened “Carapace” at the Alliance has some star power in its director’s chair: two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey. “Carapace” is the latest winner of the Kendada Graduate Playwriting Competition, which brings world premieres to Atlanta.
The actress and director admits she fell for playwright David Mitchell Robinson’s story of a father trying to reconnect with his 23 year old daughter, despite the roadblocks he has set up. As a mother of two herself, Ivey could understood the father’s plight.
“In the play, the daughter has cut off the father,” Ivey says. “He is left to wonder ‘Is it my fault? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?’ I think every parent goes through this.”
Ivey had always wanted to work at the Alliance and embraced this opportunity. She describes the play as a “dramedy,” full of comic touches but at heart a drama.
The actress is something of a gay icon, known for her roles in “Will and Grace” and especially “Designing Women,” where she replaced Julia Duffy, who before her had replaced Delta Burke. She starred as Texan B.J. Poteet. She laughs when asked if she feels like an icon.
“I’d like to be an icon for anyone — you’ll take anything you can get,” she says.
Ivey calls “Designing Women” a terrific experience. “It was surreal — I used to watch that show and then I was on it. It was a great part of my career,” she says.
Last year, she was also involved in an unorthodox production of “The Glass Menagerie,” a version that embraced the fact that son Tom was gay. She admits some purists weren’t pleased with it but it still managed to get strong reviews in Connecticut, New York and Los Angeles.
After “Carapace,” she will direct a production of “Tru,” the Truman Capote play, with “SNL” star Darrell Hammond in New York.
Top photo: Judith Ivey, who gained gay fans as an actress on ‘Designing Women,’ directs ‘Carapace’ at the Alliance through March 6. (Publicity photo)