CNY Playhouse’s “The Guys”: An Uneven Reflection of a National Tragedy

The Guys

Who: CNY Playhouse

Where: 3649 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse, NY

When: Thursday – Saturday, Aug. 29 – Sept. 11 2014

Tickets: $10-$15

Reviewed by: Haley Chouinard

Faudree and Rougeux in "The Guys" at CNY Playhouse.

Faudree and Rougeux in “The Guys” at CNY Playhouse.

 

It’s a big gamble to take on a play about 9/11.

But the Central New York Playhouse did just that last night when they opened a production of “The Guys” by Anne Nelson, which shows an FDNY captain struggling to write eulogies for several firefighters who died while responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The play opens on Joan, played by JoAnne Rougeux, a woman who grew up in Oklahoma and dreamed of moving to New York City. Through monologues delivered directly to the audience, we find out that Joan became a successful journalist, got married and moved into a spacious pre-war apartment in Manhattan.

A few days after 9/11, Joan receives a phone call from a friend asking for her help. There is a fire department captain who needs help writing eulogies for men he lost during the attacks. Joan agrees to help the man and the play truly begins.

It’s easy to see how “The Guys” could have been an appealing choice for a community theater to put on. From the technical aspect, it’s a small show to produce. The cast consists of only two actors. The set is simple – a pair of chairs, a bookcase, a table. The costumes are simple as well, just the casual clothing you would expect for the time and place. With so few technical elements to fuss with, the actors and the director, Pat Catchouny, were able to hone in on these two characters and the experience that they have together.

Nathan Faudree has some truly nice moments as our fire captian, Nick. Nick has four eulogies to give in the coming weeks but can’t seem to find anything to say. He’s frustrated by the overuse of the word ‘hero’ when, to him, these were just average guys who were doing their jobs. As he goes through his description of each of the men, Faudree’s performance becomes more genuine.

The show’s best scene comes toward the end of the show, when Nick is remembering a man named Barney. For a moment, the play fades away and you’re just listening to a man tell you about his friend.

The problems with the play seem to stem from the script itself. It deals with a national tragedy, but the play itself is not tragic. The bulk of the play consists of stories about characters that we never meet. You feel sympathetic towards the characters but the play doesn’t do much to elicit an emotional reaction from its audience.

It would be easy to say that this is just a play about New Yorkers after 9/11, but you’d be missing the bigger point. “The Guys” is about humanity in the face of an unfathomable tragedy. It’s a message that’s worth receiving.

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