Sorry, Guys

GableStage hits too many false notes in this potentially moving tale of 9/11

This oversimplification creeps into the play proper. The Guysis an underwritten play, lacking in dramatic dimension, but it's a huge acting challenge: to portray real people's experiences for an audience that has, to one degree or another, shared that experience. It's a rare opportunity to use theater to deliver both honesty and insight not only to the characters' experience but to the audience's. As the fire chief, Gordon McConnell scores on both points. Tall, weathered, with a receding hairline and a trim moustache, and clad in a baggy sweatshirt and work pants, McConnell is wholly plausible as the veteran firefighter. And his approach to Nick's struggle with grief, denial, guilt, and love makes for an outstanding, risk-taking performance. As he sits listening to the speech Joan has written about his guys, McConnell is absolutely still, yet all the grief and good memories ripple across his unmoving face. It's this kind of subtextual detail that makes the unseen dead leap to life in the audience's imagination.

But McConnell is only half of this story. Unfortunately Patti Gardner is thoroughly unconvincing as Joan, delivering the sort of actory, nonspecific performance that passes for professionalism on too many South Florida stages. McConnell acts under the lines; Gardner acts on them, safely hitting the inflections and dodging her real task. In ordinary projects, these flaws in production and performance might be overlooked. But The Guys is another case entirely. This isn't about show business or symbolism; it's about real lives.

Grieving for his Guys: Gardner and McConnell
Grieving for his Guys: Gardner and McConnell

Details

Written by Anne Nelson. Directed by Joseph Adler. With Patti Gardner and Gordon McConnell. Runs September 21-October 13 by GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables. Call 305-446-1116.

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