The current Bull City Players production of The Guys, playwright Anne Nelson’s heart-tugging two-character drama set in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11, may bring back painful memories but it is, at its core, a healing play. It is a must-see drama for people of all political stripes.

Director Grace Smiley says, “There are so many things to admire about The Guys. The subject matter, two Americans struggling in the aftermath of September 11, is current and captivating. The emotional response the play contains and commands is deeply visceral, even just upon reading it.

“I find that people sometimes avoid the theater,” Smiley says, “because they believe they can’t connect with it; they associate live theater with old-fashioned or high-brow content. It’s nice to be able to present a piece that is not simply accessible but that can resound for everybody and anybody. We all experienced 9-11, and this play eloquently voices so much of what we all went through.”

Smiley says, “The Guys is the story of Joan (Jen Wichman) and Nick (David Berberian), two New Yorkers thrown together in the days after Sept. 11. Nick is a New York City fire captain who has lost eight of his men in the World Trade Center collapse, and is now faced with the daunting task of writing and delivering their eulogies. Joan is an editor and writer who commits to helping him. The play is their journey of creation through four of these eulogies, and as the characters grieve and cope, forge new connections, laugh and remember, they struggle with the questions we were all faced with: Is anyone OK?, Will we go back to normal?, Why would somebody do something like this?, How can we help?”

Besides director Grace Smiley, who doubles as the show’s lighting and costume designer, the Bull City Players production team for The Guys includes producer Anthony Caporale and set designer David Berberian.

“The set is simple and minimalistic,” claims Grace Smiley. “It consists of a 12×12 foot platform surrounded by a step, recalling a New York City neighborhood stoop. There are two chairs and a table on the platform. Finally, there is a backdrop for projection of images behind the set.”

Smiley says, “Lighting is also simple. Our main focus in this area is projection images to accentuate key moments in the play.” She adds, “The actors wear comfortable casual everyday clothes for almost the entire production. Nick appears in the final scene wearing a firefighter’s dress uniform, kindly lent to us by the Durham City Fire Department.”

Grace Smiley notes, “We will be having a post-performance Talk Back on Nov. 9 that all audience members are invited to join. We have also been invited to play a special one-night-only engagement at Studio Theatre in New York on December 5th.

“There is no foul or objectionable language or violence in the play,” Smiley says, “and [The Guys] is suitable for older children with adult guidance. The content is deep, but could provide fodder for interesting talks about terrorism, grief, and coping.”

Bull City Players presents The Guys Friday-Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1 and Nov. 7-8 and 14-15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 2, 9, and 16, at 3 p.m. in the PSI Theatre in the Durham Arts Council Building, 120 Morris Street, Durham, North Carolina. $12 Friday-Saturday and $10 Sunday. 919/490-8603. Note: There will be a post-performance discussion after the Nov. 9 matinee.

& 10/24/03:

The Guys (Bull City Players, 1 p.m. Oct. 25 on the outdoor stage at the Streets at Southpoint, 6910 Fayetteville Rd., Durham, NC) is a special FREE preview performance of director Grace Smiley’s staging of Anne Nelson’s heart-tugging post-9/11 drama based on a true story about a bereft and inarticulate Fire Department of New York captain (David Berberian) and a compassionate freelance writer (Jen Wichman) who helps him compose eulogies for his men who died when the World Trade Center collapsed. The Guys opens Oct. 31 runs through Nov. 16 in the PSI Theatre in the Durham Arts Council Building. For more information, visit For tickets to the Oct. 31-Nov. 16 performances, telephone 919/490-8603.