by Mallory Tucker
“People who are ordinary in an extraordinary situation — that’s what this is about.”
Knowing vaguely that Anne Nelson’s play “The Guys” was about the events of 9/11 and based off her own experience, I walked in on a very different hour and a half than I was expecting at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Black Box Theatre.
Expecting a New York City stage scenery, I was surprised to be opened up with Ashley Nossett (sr) who plays Joan, a distressed editor on the Upper West Side of NYC, standing in the middle of a living room.
The set consisted only of what you would find in an average living room, along with rustic newspapers hanging from the ceiling at a distance.
The play features a two-person cast. The male lead, Nick, came out shortly after Joan’s introduction. Nick, a grieving New York City Fire Department Captain played by Seth Lawrence (sr), was seeking a writer to help him write eulogies for several men on his crew who died during the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
One by one, Nick and Joan slowly analyzed each deceased life of the FDNY crew members in order for Joan to write an effective eulogy for Nick to read at the funerals.
One specific thought ran through my head throughout the entire duration of the play:
“Lawrence cannot be a senior in college!”
Had I not known Lawrence was playing a part in a play, I would have bet money that he truly was the captain of a fire department in the uniform he wore on stage. Lawrence looked the part perfectly, not to mention double his actual age. Kudos to the costume and hair/makeup designers.
The setting of this play is approximately two weeks after the attacks on 9/11. Contrary to what I was expecting, “The Guys” displays the agonizing anguish and grief the events of 9/11 caused friends and family of the lives lost during the attack, rather than the initial incident itself.
Throughout the play, the scenes flashed back and forth between Nick and Joan’s conversation and Joan’s soliloquies.
Suddenly, a scene would break and the spotlight would shine upon Joan as the audience was given insight on her perspective of the tragedy as an outsider looking in. Nossett did a remarkable job professing her long lines to the audience with such a dramatic flare that could keep a person absorbed for hours.
It was apparent to me that the play was not only portraying the detrimental effects of 9/11 on survivors or survivors of the deceased, it was a play about the effects of the tragedy on Americans as an entirety.
The set and the costumes were basic, but I was impressed at how powerful and emotional Lawrence and Nossett made the play despite the simplicity.
“The Guys” is about such a critical event in American history and required a serious tone for the bulk of the performance. The solemnity made it difficult for me to relate to the limited bits of humor the script entailed.
Though lacking in humor, I was far from disappointed by the dramatics.
I believe the two-person cast did an incredible, professional job as they spoke for ninety minutes straight with no break. They managed to portray an inspiring amount of emotion for the audience to experience.
Multiple sniffles rang through the audience, including my own, as the power of the story spoke to each of our hearts.
I left the theatre thinking hard about my own experience and memories from 9/11. “The Guys” is a play IWU can expect to be proud of.