The Flea Theatre
I have avoided all dramatic dealings with the events of 9/11, whether news, documentary, political discussion, or art. I was here. I had moved to NYC the week before. My younger sister was living a few blocks away from the
Forerunning the resent deluge, The Guys by Anne Nelson, was commissioned for the Flea Theatre in October of 2001. The theatre’s immediate response to the question, “What can we do?”, the play follows two characters asking the same: Joan (Grace Gonglewski), a writer, finds her peace in aiding Nick (Tom Wopat), a Brooklyn Fire Chief coming to grips with the lose of 15 members of his firehouse and struggling to pen 15 memorials for 15 funerals. Anyone who was in NYC after 9/11 recognizes this situation, whether they were directly faced with lose or simply feeling ineffectual- too many volunteers, too many blood donors. The world was different all of a sudden and where did you fit in?
I enjoyed the play, particularly Wopat who seamlessly wove conflicting emotions of a private life in fleshy moments of memory and grief, very real and effective without sentimentality. The play was most magnetic when Nick explored particulars of each fireman, illustrating the awareness of individuality and personal affection often unappreciated until too late.
The character of Joan was harder to swallow, skirting sometimes the political and other times the emotional, finding fullness to rival Nick in neither. In a continuous attempt to connect with the tragedy, Joan remains cerebral and guilt ridden- I don’t think the play let the character realize so much as lead the audience in empathy for Nick and his men. This is not necessarily bad, in fact it might be very realistic for this character, but her sentiments did not go far enough to illuminate, rather, sometimes they felt narrow minded. Most of the post-play discussion between me and my friends centered on how this character serves the playwright’s intentions, and perhaps this is part of the character’s purpose: a foil to gage your own opinions.
All in all, it was a touching investigation, well acted and gentle in leading the audience to meditate on where we were on 9/11, and where we are today personally, as a city, a country, and a world. I did crave a bit more dirt, a bit more controversy driven from the writer, who at points grazed matters of a global perspective and the American place with in that. Just a bit more would have sufficed. But I guess this is my homework, and stimulating this thought process is a good starting point. Time to turn on NPR.