Sigourney Weaver and Bill Irwin may both be leaving the Off-Off Broadway mounting of The Guys at the tiny Flea Theatre on Feb. 9, but the star power will continue. After a week's break, starting Feb. 18, Susan Sarandon and Anthony LaPaglia will be the new leads in the two hander.
Film actress Sarandon's credits range from "Thelma and Louise" to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," while LaPaglia's Broadway credits include celebrated turns in revivals of The Rose Tattoo and A View From the Bridge, for which he won a Tony.
The Guys was workshopped at the Bat Theatre Company in Tribeca in December 2001 and returned Jan. 17-26 with Bill 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 had told Playbill On-Line it was hoped The Guys would continue with other well-known actors taking over.
Jan. 29-Feb. 9, Bill Irwin ("Groundhog Day") took over Murray's role and plays opposite Weaver (Sex and Longing). Tickets to the show will stay at $55, 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 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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