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The Guys, Piven Theatre Workshop, at the Lakeshore Theater. Four months ago, Goodman Theatre's staging of Anne Nelson's docudrama had a certain urgency. Essentially a simplistic dramatization of Nelson's real-life experience helping a Manhattan fire captain write eulogies for the men he lost in the World Trade Center collapse, this collection of Ground Zero stories nevertheless offered some much needed communal solace. And despite the script's willful political ignorance--the attacks happened for "no reason" and affected only Americans--nuanced, deeply felt performances by Mary Beth Fisher and B.J. Jones turned a quickly assembled staged reading into a therapeutic event.

Without the poignancy of the anniversary as a backdrop, however, Nelson's script feels about as insightful as a typical Oprah Winfrey show. Or maybe the problem is Anna D. Shapiro's perfunctory staging. Television actors Jeremy Piven and Alicia Goranson (who perform the show for the first two weeks) read from scripts they seem to have glanced through casually only a few times. Goranson, a good 20 years too young for her role, seems largely at sea, too busy fumbling with a spiral notebook to create a semblance of inner life. Piven, only ten years too young to play the captain, reads well but fails to evolve psychologically or emotionally.

Let's hope the replacement cast spends a bit more time with the script. Maybe they'll even memorize it.

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