Play looks at a 9-11 transformation
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic
The Actors Group, Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St.
7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 28
Not surprisingly, the play has a raw immediacy and a therapeutic feel as a writer helps a fire captain prepare memorial service eulogies for eight of his men still missing in the collapsed skyscrapers. The action takes place in the week following the attack. The play was mounted within three months of 9-11.
The dialogue neatly captures two people groping through the pain and helplessness of the tragedy. Nick, the fire captain, feels the weight of responsibility and lacks the words to properly represent his men in front of their grieving families and friends. Joan, the writer and a Manhattan resident, shares in the city's collective grief and is grateful for a chance to be helpful.
Together, they craft the words that will honor the fallen fire fighters and allow the healing process to begin.
The play has a straightforward shape and one mild theatrical surprise.
Referred by a mutual acquaintance, Nick comes to Joan's apartment with an armload of personnel folders. She encourages him to use his memory instead. How do you picture him? What is he doing? What is he saying?
Their collaboration results in simple but moving vignettes of men who answered the emergency call, did their jobs and perished in the largest watershed event of the early 21st century.
Names are unimportant, but strong types emerge the seasoned old-timer, the new guy still on probation, the best friend and the loveable wild guy who was always in trouble. Ultimately, Nick regains his composure and confidence from the exercise while Joan develops a personal connection with men she never knew.
The final scene has Nick delivering a moving and compassionate eulogy in full dress uniform while Joan demands justice by running video tapes backward watching the towers rise up from the smoke and ashes while firefighters back their rigs to the station and return to their homes.
The playwright's single surprise is the sequence that ends Act 1. Nick takes Joan's hand and teaches her the steps to a sensuous tango, softening and humanizing two characters that have been up until then struggling to maintain stiff personal control.
Joan deflates the moment at the start of Act 2 by declaring that the dance happened only in her imagination.
Brad Powell directs, and he gets nicely modulated performances from his cast.
Frankie Enos turns in her best performance to date as the writer. Eric Nemoto keeps the character of Nick always close to the edge.
Curiously, as the play unfolds, the two characters reverse their trajectories. Joan becomes increasingly angry and resistant, while Nick is comforted and becomes accepting.
Set design by Paul Guncheon and Henry Deardorff is intelligent and subtly provoking, painting most of the furniture and props including a vase of tulips a charred, flat black.