Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
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Material Girls
The Female Funny Fest might make you think, but it wants to make you laugh.
-Debra Auspitz

Brittle Women
-Susan Hagen

Pal Around
-Steve Cohen

Human, Nature
-Janet Anderson

War on War
-Sam Adams

Sons Also Rises
-David Anthony Fox

Due Cause
-Frank Lewis

Delaware Divas
-David Shengold

October 31-November 6, 2002

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The Real Thing

The true story behind The Guys -- how shortly after 9/11, Columbia University journalism professor Anne Nelson helped a fire captain write eulogies for lost comrades, then turned the experience into a two-character play that became a surprise hit (now in its 10th month at Tribeca's Flea Theater) and a movie starring Sigourney Weaver -- is perhaps better-known than the play itself. But that's all good, because the strongest suit of The Guys is that it's true to the guys themselves.

"I've had so many firefighters come to the play and say, ŒI know that firehouse, it's in the Bronx.'" It wasn't, Nelson told me in an interview this spring; at the captain's request, she has never revealed his identity or the location of his firehouse. Still, she attributes much of her inspiration to his eloquent descriptions of firefighters' lives. She remembers how struck she was by the particular music of his diction: "I thought, here we are, these hoity-toity Ivy League types who think we know how to use language, and I'm hearing something I've never heard before -- a whole mode of expression, fresh and trenchant." Nick, the captain in the play, explains to the writer, Joan, the difference between a "ladder" and an "engine"; defines a "Hurst tool"; tells why it's bad to be a "square rooter." And in his affectionate recollections, we catch a real sense of the dedication and humor ("Yeah, but Barney, can she weld?") that ties the firefighters together.

The actors in the production coming to Friends Hospital this month can testify to the authenticity of Nelson's feel for life in the Fire Department of New York, because they work there: Jason Leahey and Liza Meryl Frank are project assistants with FDNY's Counseling Services Unit. The two have performed the play once for Nelson's students at Columbia; their performances here will benefit Friends' treatment of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

The Guys tends to become a kind of communal experience for actors and audience. Nelson, who will speak before the first performance on Nov. 3, says that many of the actors who played Nick and Joan at the Flea (a roster that includes Susan Sarandon, Swoosie Kurtz and Tim Robbins) stayed after performances to talk to firefighters. You can expect the actors at Friends to linger for discussion, too. "This play," says Frank, "is a healing thing."

The Guys, Sun., Nov. 3, 1-4:30 p.m., $100, performance preceded by lunch and comments by Anne Nelson. Sundays, Nov. 10, 17 and 24, 2 p.m., $30 (performance only), Friends Hospital, Tyson-Janney Dining Hall, 4641 Roosevelt Blvd., 215-831-3584.

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