Sports and intellect combine for a great taste of the American pastime coupled with a rarely scene view of the sports world in playwright Richard Greensburg's "Take Me Out", now in its West Coast premiere at the Brentwood Theater.
What a joy right off the bat to sit in a play about baseball that has it's characters conversing in a style that belies the traditional myths about players. The stimulating dialogue of the piece and flowing narrative of Kippy Sunderstorm (a rich insightful Jeffrey Nordling) make for a play not as much about baseball, but sports as a metaphor and human nature itself in all its forms.
The 2003 Tony winner for best play (Sharply directed here by Randall
Arney) revolves around Darren Lemming, who is a sports untouchable; a super talented wealthy African American baseball star who calls a press conference to announce he is gay. The complications and moral equations that grow from the moment of first resolve to the last dark moments of the play make for a rich story. The ensemble cast is terrific and has actors who aren't leads pull off great performances like Bryce Johnson and his characterization of the catcher Jason Chenier and Carmen Argenziano in dual roles as Skipper and William R.
Lemming is played flawlessly by Terrell Tilford who presents a perfect specimen of manhood and talent wrapped in a confidant cocky persona. His announcement does not phase or change him at first - "If I'm gonna have sex - and I am because I'm young and rich and famous and talented and handsome so it's a law - I'd rather do it with a guy, but, when all is said and done,
Kippy? I'd rather just play ball" - he is a man comfortable with his own sexuality and sport even as his teammates, some fans and his best friend eventually turn on him because of his honesty.
Everything is fine as long as his team, The Empires', are winning. When they begin to lose a relief pitcher named Shane Mungitt is called up from double A. Jeremy Sisto who is well know for his work on HBO's Six Feet Under plays Mungitt as a deeply racist man who has the intelligence and intellect of someone from the back woods in the deep south; a modern-day Neanderthal. His prejudice is tempered with his just wanting to play the game and Sisto is brilliant as the unwitting entrenched nemesis of our hero.
Jeffrey Hutchinson is hilarious as he plays the anti-Mungitt, Mason
Marzac; a gay ,nervous, smitten money manager who comes into Lemmings life. He also has some of the deeper musings of the play relating baseball to democracy itself, and turns in a great performance in his scenes opposite the Suave
Morrocco Omari as Davey Battle is almost tragic in his beautiful portrayal of how deep friendships can be thrown away because of the dogma of hate that Christian churches espouse. Ian Barford is perfect as the thickheaded Toddy Koovitz and Carlos Albert, Byron Quiros and Ryun Yu all do a great job with their respective roles.
If There is one problem with Greenberg's play it is the underlying message it seems to send, That declaring yourself gay in today's sports world can only lead to darkness and in this case parlaying into loss of friendship, loss of respect, and even an on field death. The play takes it's time to explore realms of intellect and greater themes of life, but the idea of a happy ending when it comes to homosexuality isn't among them.
This is still a strong work with deep and rooted performances that holds us from beginning to end. The Geffen once again proves itself as a premier and dominant player on LA's theater scene.
- Kevin Kindlin
the Geffen Playhouse Website for ticket information.
West Coast Premiere!
Richard Greenberg's acclaimed play about “America's Game”
EXTENDED THROUGH OCTOBER 31ST!
Written by: Richard Greenberg
Directed by: Randall Arney
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