Take Me Out

“Take Me Out” by Richard Greenberg
a kate west review
directed by Joe Mantello
at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W 48th Street, New York, NY
(212) 239-6200

A typical baseball fan would be naturally inclined to see the new Tony-award winning hit Broadway play about the all-American pastime. Richard Greenburg’s latest work, “Take Me Out,” seemingly offers a little something for the non-athletic as well.

At the start of the play, Darren Lemming, Empire’s (very much like the Yankees) star African-American player has just unexpectedly come out of the closet in a major press conference. He is stoically and majestically portrayed by Daniel Sunjata, very much like Derek Jeter. His teammate Kippy, played by the affable Neal Huff, is the narrator explaining the repercussions of Darren’s announcement and how all the “trouble” started. At first, Darren’s self-identity is marked by an incredible arrogance. He is impatient with both his denouncers and his defenders, not wishing to be a poster boy for someone else’s idea of a hero. He just wants to play ball. Enter Shane Mungitt, played by the delightfully awkward Frederick Weller. He is a taciturn, unrefined redneck who can pitch a hell of a game. Kippy’s attempt to take him under his wing eventually backfires as can no longer deny the depth of Shane’s racism nor Darren’s latent anger which leads to a disturbingly violent confrontation.

The play explores every range of emotion, however never fully connects with the theme of baseball. Also, the light-heartedness in the first half clashes with the heavy and dark second half of the play with almost no reconciliation. The dialogue is a bit unrealistic for regular ballplayers, as the author tends to overwrite his characters, resulting in a rather stilted characterization. One exception is Denis O’Hare, whose accountant Mason Marzac comes closet to representing the author’s voice. His poignant speech about the nobility and tradition of baseball is one of the more beautiful homages in recent theater. However moving it does not tie all the story lines together. O’Hare does a superb job of conveying a full range of character in a relatively minor role. He is delightfully original.

Director Joe Mantello does a solid job of staging and Scenic Designer Scott Pask creates a realistically interchangeable ballpark and athletic locker room, complete with working showers. An extra bonus for the patrons is watching these fit young Broadway boys disrobe and play in running water. The grating catches all the runoff and prevents slipping for anyone worrying about the actors’ safety.

Overall the production is slightly disappointing but the strong core of actors keep the audience’s attention throughout. Worthwhile for the fun baseball references alone.

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