KPBS AIRDATE: January 28, 2005
It’s the playwright’s first time at bat – at least on the subject of baseball. He steps up to the plate and whacks one right outta the park. Richard Greenberg has written some fascinating, thought-provoking plays, like “Three Days of Rain” and “The Dazzle.” But his baseball play, “Take Me Out,” put him in a whole new league. This comic drama won the Best Play Tony Award in 2003. Baseball becomes a metaphor for life when a major league superstar calls a press conference and comes out of the closet. All hell breaks loose – in the locker room and in his life.
In his contemplations of history, passion and power, the playwright has giddily inserted himself into two vastly different characters: the star’s close friend, Kippy , the team’s brainy, contemplative shortstop; and Mason, the queen-y, nerdy money manager, a recent convert to the game who becomes, like Greenberg himself, a frenzied, exuberant baseball fanatic. In a hilarious treatise on America ’s Favorite Pastime, the frenetic, neurotic Mason tells us how “Baseball is better than democracy,” concluding that “Democracy is lovely but baseball is more mature.” Mason is the show’s comic relief and Kippy is its dramatic anchor. In between, we get a whole range of judgments and outlooks on race, class and sexual politics, sports, superstars, friendship, bigotry, religion, tolerance, fate and oh yes, democracy.
This marvelous touring production is directed by the gifted Joe Mantello , who won his own awards for the New York and London premieres. The performances at the Old Globe may not have the Tony Award-winning brilliance of the originals, but the anguish, humor and provocative issues are intact, as are those famous nude shower scenes. Yes, sports fans, you can forget the modesty of dimmed lights and concealing bowler hats; this really is the Full Monty. And it’s not just a fleeting moment. There are at least three long scenes that let it all hang out. But nudity is not there for shock value. The play is set in the clubhouse, where soaping up and dressing down are de rigueur. Things change quite a bit after Darren’s announcement. Everyone’s on edge, and the men are suddenly, like Adam and Eve, self-consciously aware of their nakedness. But when a bigoted, monosyllabic, homophobic relief pitcher is brought in, the stakes are raised. Teasing turns to tragedy, and everyone is forced to face down his own demons. Greenberg’s writing is terrific, ranging from coarse to lyrical, from witty to profound. Mason’s joyous discovery that “baseball takes me out of myself” gives yet another layer of meaning to the title.
“Take Me Out” may not be for grandma, but it’s definitely for anyone who loves invigorating ideas, fine performances or great design, not to mention baseball or men.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.