12 years later, 9/11 resonates in play 'The Guys'

rcopley@herald-leader.comSeptember 8, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    'The Guys'

    What: Lonesome Girl production of Anne Nelson's 2002 play

    When: 8:30 p.m. Sept. 10-13 and 4 p.m. Sept. 14.

    Where: Centered, 309 N. Ashland Ave.

    Tickets: $8-$10. Available in advance at Bit.ly/17W1wcy.

    Learn more: Lonesomegirlproductions.com

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jenny Christian, like most people, didn't quite know what to do.

She felt oddly compelled to get to her job as a hostess at DeSha's restaurant, despite the feeling the world was coming apart with the terror attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. She stopped and lingered with others at the TVs in the windows of Barney Miller's downtown, watching the World Trade Center in flames after being struck by two commercial airliners. Her best friend lived in Manhattan, and a co-worker's father worked at the Pentagon, which had also been struck.

There was a deep feeling of fear and anger, but she didn't know what to do.

A year later, she was trolling the scripts section at a bookstore, which she often does, when she came upon The Guys by Anne Nelson.

The two-person play was based on Nelson's own experience helping a New York City fire captain who lost most of his men in the World Trade Center write eulogies for their services.

Christian read most of it sitting on the floor in the bookstore. She says she knew she wanted to direct it.

"I loved the story and the honesty of it," Christian says. "In a way, it was very simple, and I liked that. It takes this huge, overwhelming, unfathomable event and boils in down to two people."

This week, 11 years after finding The Guys, Christian is realizing that ambition. She is directing Lexington actors Russell Mendez and Peggy Stamps in a production of Nelson's play that will be presented Tuesday to Saturday at Centered, a new holistic health center and smoothie and juice bar on Ashland Avenue.

"The first time I read it, there was a lot of crying," says Mendez, who plays the fire captain, Nick. "Every time I read the script, there was crying and laughing out loud."

During the 75-minute play, Nick tells the writer, Joan, played by Stamps, about his men, from the new recruit who was responding to his first real fire on Sept. 11, to reliable old hands who were fiercely loyal and could solve any problem. There were stories of incredible bravery, and some silliness.

"The message of the play is that there are wonderful, interesting things inside every person around us," says Christian, who is directing the play in between years working on a master's degree in theater directing at East 15 Acting School, just outside London, England.

But she wanted to produce The Guys in the United States.

The play was originally mounted in early 2002 at the Flea Theatre in New York starring Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver. Weaver also played Joan in a film version later that year with Anthony LaPaglia. The show was produced in Lexington at the Central Library Theatre in 2003 with Ed Desiato and Gina Cay Scott, directed by John Lynaugh.

The difference between now and then is time. At one point in a discussion during a rehearsal break, the terror attacks are described as "history."

To the actors in the current production, the play takes a huge event, a horrific attack by a terrorist group on a global superpower, and puts a human face on it.

"You see a picture of this person who was there, and suddenly, it's not just a big event," Mendez says.

And with the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11 on Wednesday, it seemed like the right time to revive the show.

Christian says Centered, an intimate space with an emphasis on healing therapies, seemed like the right place to present it.

"We're telling the stories of people that were there," Christian says. "I think that's a great tribute."


IF YOU GO

'The Guys'

What: Lonesome Girl production of Anne Nelson's 2002 play

When: 8:30 p.m. Sept. 10-13 and 4 p.m. Sept. 14.

Where: Centered, 309 N. Ashland Ave.

Tickets: $8-$10. Available in advance at Bit.ly/17W1wcy.

Learn more: Lonesomegirlproductions.com

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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