Anne Nelson's The Guys will close at downtown New York City's Flea Theatre Dec. 20 following 159 performances.
The 9/11 drama has spawned productions at Los Angeles' Actors' Gang, Chicago's Goodman, Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the North Carolina's Carolina Arts Festival as well as a feature film, a Random House book and two Lincoln Center benefits.
The Flea Theatre, which is home to the Bat Theatre Company, was among the New York City theatres hardest hit by Sept. 11, located 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 Off-Off-Broadway venue.
In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, Bat artistic director Jim Simpson found himself sitting next to author and Columbia Graduate School professor Anne Nelson at a benefit dinner for a human rights organization. Keeping in mind a suggestion from a Bat Theatre Company member to do a play which addressed the recent tragedies, Simpson asked Nelson if she'd give it a try. The first-time playwright spent the next week fashioning the play that became The Guys. She turned it in, Simpson read it and scheduled it within 48 hours.
The Guys was workshopped at the Flea Theatre in Tribeca in December 2001 and returned January 2002 with stars Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver (Simpson's wife). The production would star other such well-known names as Bill Irwin, Anthony LaPaglia, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Swoosie Kurtz, Amy Irving, Tom Wopat, Carol Kane, Stephen Lang, Marlo Thomas, Polly Draper, Terrence Mann, Peggy Lipton and Dan Lauria. Tim Cummings and Irene Walsh were the continuous understudies for the entire run. The Guys no doubt revived audience patronage of the venue. Associate producer Erik Sniedze was happy to tell Playbill On-Line March 22 that "things are getting back to normal" for the company. The company recently offered two free performances of the production as a Thank You to the city of New York.
The Guys, based on Nelson's real experiences, is a dialogue between a fire captain — who has lost most of his men in the Sept. 11 attack — and an editor who helps him write the eulogies as she struggles herself to come to terms with the event. Both find out, as quoted from the script, "We have no idea what wonders lie hidden in the people around us."
The film version of The Guys featuring former cast members Weaver and LaPaglia, under the direction of Simpson, will play an Academy Award-qualifying run in Los Angeles Dec. 13 prior to a wide theatrical release in either February or March of 2003 according to a Focus Features spokesperson.
The Guys hit bookshelves in August, published by Random House. The paperback also includes two new essays by Nelson and photos from the New York theatrical production.
The Los Angeles production has featured Robbins, Helen Hunt, Sarandon, Philip Baker Hall, Jeanne Tripplehorn, David Hyde Pierce, Glenne Headley, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman. Robbins and Sarandon also performed the work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
For tickets to The Guys at The Flea, 41 White Street in Tribeca, call (212) 206-1515 or visit www.thebat.com. Limited $15 tickets for firemen and Port Authority workers with ID. Rush Tickets ($25) are sold on the same day, based on availability.
— by Ernio Hernandez