There is no New Yorker, indeed no American that has not been affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The images of that day have been indelibly seared into our minds and the emotions branded into our hearts. But the days and weeks following that catastrophic day can sometimes be as blurry as a Monet and other times it is as vivid as a Matisse. This year marks the 10th anniversary of that infamous day. Playwright Brian Sloan explores the surreal time after the 9/11 attacks in WTC View.
WTC View examines the psychological effects on a group of New Yorkers after the World Trade Center attacks. It centers on a photographer named Eric and his quest to find a roommate to assist in paying the rent in his two bedroom SoHo apartment. Eric, portrayed by Nick Lewis, was in his apartment when the attacks began, which has a bird’s eye view of the Twin Towers; he witnessed the cataclysmic episode unfold outside a bedroom window. He meets an array of interested applicants, each with their own perspective on 9/11. Jeremy, played by Bob Braswell, is the British St. Regis employee who loses his job because of the lack of tourists and returns home to England. Kevin, played by Michael Carlsen, was unable to go back to his Battery Park apartment after the attacks and was stuck in New Jersey with a one night stand for three days. Jeff, depicted by Torsten Hillhouse, is a democratic campaign worker who was born in NYC and decided to return because he felt New York City needed him. Alex, played by Patrick Edward O’Brien, worked at the World Trade Center and was present during the time of the attacks. His story is one of the carnage left in the wake such a vicious act of terrorism as well as one of hope. Max, played by Martin Edward Cohen, is a young NYU student that mixes his feelings of guilt and activism into one huge twenty-something M80 that is just ready to burst. All these young men, along with Eric’s friend Josie, played by Leah Curney, and Eric’s ex-boyfriend (who is only heard via Eric’s answering machine) assist Eric in coming to terms with the loss he felt as a result of 9/11 as well as the hysteria that subsequently followed in the days and weeks that followed.
With September marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this review is the first time I have written anything about what happened on that Tuesday morning in September 2001. Somehow I could not locate the words that I felt adequately expressed my pain. Almost ten years later, and it was not until I witnessed WTC View that I realized why I never did. All humans react differently during times of distress and earth-shattering events. I was like Eric. I wanted desperately to pretend that watching those towers fall did not affect me. I wanted to believe that the weeks of watching funerals on television or passing by dozens of missing person bulletins had no impact on my psyche, but the glaring truth for me and the protagonist of the play is that it did. Eric finally came to grips with his pain after several breakdowns. I buried it as deep as I could and as a result it paralyzed my fingers and mind. I thought I had covered the wounds inflicted on us as a society that day with the finest emotional band-aids, but as I watched each actor recount how 9/11 changed their life as they knew it and observed Eric slowly succumb to his grief and fear, I could feel the bandage being ripped from my heart. What I found was that I had not healed at all, but thanks to the crafty storytelling of Brian Sloan, I recognized that I was ready to go back to the pain and try to heal.
Watching WTC View is similar to having the deepest deep tissue massage you will ever have. The right hand grabs your heart, the left clutches your soul, sometimes you will wince in pain, but you will leave feeling more healed than when you came in. WTC View is a must see for all New Yorkers, it is a riveting piece of theater, powerfully acted by an impressive cast. Currently playing at 59E59 Theaters until June 5 as part of the America’s Off-Broadway series, WTC View is a production that embodies the true spirit of New York and its unrelenting resiliency.
Photos: Carol Rosegg