Can't get tickets to see Bill Murray in The Guys, a Sept. 11th influenced drama that's selling out seats at the tiny Flea Theatre Off-Off Broadway? Well, take heart, the Bat Theatre Company is sending you another Bill.
Jan. 29-Feb. 9, Bill Irwin will take over Murray's role and play opposite Sigourney Weaver, who remains with the show. According to the theatre's answering machine message, tickets will stay at $55 for the show, which has general seating and is directed by Bat artistic director Jim Simpson. Irwin is best known for being half the Fool Moon team with David Shiner, though he also starred in such solos as Largely New York and In Regard of Flight.
The Guys was workshopped at the Bat Theatre Company in Tribeca in December 2001, and returned Jan. 17-26 with Murray and Weaver. The initial run consisted of nine workshop performances beginning Dec. 6 and running through Dec. 20, 2001, all at 7 PM. Flea spokesperson Erik Sniedze told Playbill On-Line it's hoped The Guys will continue past Feb. 9, and discussions are underway with other well-known actors to take over.
The Bat was among the New York City theatres hardest hit by Sept. 11. The company is located in the Flea Theatre on White Street in Tribeca, just blocks from Ground Zero. When the city closed off Manhattan south of 14th Street for several days, audiences were kept from the Bat. And since reopening, the theatre, run by artistic director Jim Simpson, was struggling, with audiences hovering around the five percent capacity mark. No question that The Guys has revived audience patronage of the venue.
* The Guys, which features lighting by Kyle Chepulis and costumes by Claudia Brown, addresses a topic well known to Simpson, Weaver (Simpson's wife) and the staff at the Bat: the events of and following Sept. 11. Murray/Irwin plays a fire captain who talks with Weaver, an editor, about the men he lost during the World Trade Center attack. Together, they struggle to compose eulogies for the lost firemen.
The Guys is the first play of Anne Nelson, the author of several books and a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Some days after Sept. 11, Jim Simpson was sitting next to Nelson at a benefit dinner for a human rights organization. Earlier, a member of Simpson's repertory company had suggested the Bat Theatre do a play which addressed the recent tragedies. Simpson asked Nelson if she'd give it a try, and the writer spent the next week fashioned the play that became The Guys. She turned it in, Simpson read it and scheduled it with 48 hours.
Soon after, Weaver — who, since Sept. 11, has acted as an unofficial spokesperson for the theatre, though she has not been available for interview about the current project — expressed a desire to play the part of the editor. She then gave her sometime film co-star Murray a call to play the other part. "I really believe theatre can nourish us during this time and that The Guys can illuminate some of what we're going through," said Weaver in a prepared statement distributed to the press. "Frankly, as a New Yorker I jumped at the chance to be part of this."
"It's ironic that when the Flea found itself threatened that we re discovered our ability to respond in an immediate and direct fashion," added Simpson in the same press release. The Flea is located a mere seven blocks from Ground Zero. The theatre, hosting five plays prior to Sept. 11, was forced to close for nearly three weeks. Upon reopening, attendance plummeted from 90 percent to 5 percent.
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