Both locally and nationally, Anne Nelson's play The Guys has had a most unusual decade-long life. Right after Sept. 11, 2001, Nelson wrote the play in a little over a week, and a production starring Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray soon followed.
In Tampa, longtime theater stalwarts Roz and Paul Potenza heard of the play and staged one of the first, if not the very first, productions outside New York. Brian Shea directed for Jobsite Theater. Then Shea and the Potenzas reprised that production in 2005.
Now Jobsite is staging The Guys again, this time with the Potenzas directed by Shawn Paonessa.
The play about firefighters who died in the twin towers may now have less immediacy, but it hasn't lost its timeliness, Paonessa said.
"I actually think it's more relevant now," he said. "It's more a play about Sept. 12 than Sept. 11. It's about the society we ended up with, in a non-political way."
In 2001, Nelson was approached by a New York City firefighter to help write eulogies for some of his friends. She based the play on that experience.
Ten years ago, the play's strength was that it looked at a massive national tragedy as an intimate, personal one. Now, Paonessa said, he sees the show as dealing with the unity Americans displayed after the attacks.
"There was a cohesiveness," he said. "People were talking to each other in ways they hadn't been doing. And that's what happens here. It's the two strangers who would not have had anything to do with each other, and they find this bond."
The Guys runs through Sept. 25 at the Shimberg Playhouse at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50 plus service charge. (813) 229-7827; strazcenter.org. There's also a different production of the play at Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center, 13651 Hays Road, Hudson. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. $9-$15. (727) 857-2604.