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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00

The Guys

Written by Bob Wilcox
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West End Players Guild

Through 10/7/2007
Reviewed by Bob Wilcox
The Guys is a play about 9/11. Perhaps "play" is the wrong word. Instead of a suspenseful plot, you have about a half dozen stories. These are stories about individuals who were members of a New York Fire Department company. They responded to the fires at the World Trade Centers and were lost when the buildings collapsed.

Their captain tells the stories about them. He was off duty on the morning of 9/11, due to come in that evening. Now he is expected to say something about each of them at memorial services for them. He doesn't know how to give a speech. So a mutual friend puts him in touch with a writer. She helps him organize his thoughts and write the speeches.

I suppose The Guys has a little suspense in it. Will the writer be able to get the speeches written in time? She does - amazingly swiftly. I suppose the playwright, Anne Nelson, has compressed time here, and we in the audience are expected to suspend our disbelief.

That's not hard to do, given the fine performances at this West End Players Guild production. Leslie Wobbe is one of those actors who always seems to find the right note for a character, a note that also fits her as an actor. She does it again here as the writer. Some of the things the writer says could become sloppily sentimental. Wobbe makes them the honest expression of a person desperate to find some way to contribute to the recovery from the disaster.

As the captain, Mark Abels turns in the finest performance I've seen from him. Apologetic and frustrated that he needs help to honor these men who are so close to him, emotionally devastated yet determined to remain in control, Abels quietly and subtly exposes the man's soul, even in those moments when he simply stares into space while the writer launches one of her little essays about What It All Means.

For, in addition to those stories, playwright Nelson - a writer herself - does give us the writer's reflections on that terrible event. Mostly, besides not feeling useless, the writer wants to return to normal. At that time, it seemed a forlorn hope.

Yet more and more, we do and we have. And that weakens the impact of The Guys. However, even without the immediacy of 9/11, these are pretty good stories, well told, and the play is only 90 minutes long.

Renee Sevier-Monsey provided the appropriately lean direction and the simple set, with lights by Kathleen Mayhew, costumes by Colleen Heneghan, and sound by Chuck Lavazzi.

The Guys continues at the West End Players Guild through a Sunday matinee Oct. 7 [2007]. Phone 314-367-0025 for tickets and information.

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