The glove that dares not speak its name
Smart and almost too sexy for its own good, the baseball play "Take Me Out" is a hit when it takes on the gay taboo in professional sports, though we might give the playwright an error when it comes to ethnic equality.
By MARIANA CARRE飽 KING
(Originally reviewed in September 2002 at the Public Theater)
Even if you are not a fan of America's favorite sport (baseball, in case you didn't know), I'm sure you will enjoy "Take Me Out," a new play by Richard Greenberg ("Three Days of Rain," "Dazzle"), directed by Joe Montello ("Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune," "Love! Valour! Compassion!") and featuring an ensemble of eleven talented actors yes, all male.
"Take Me Out" confronts an unmentionable issue in professional sports, which, although whispered and gossiped about (remember Mike Piazza's statement last May?), it has yet to make real headlines: homosexuality among sport stars. Darren Lemming (Daniel Sunjata), an almost cocky, mixed-race baseball star for the Empires (a Yankee-like team) at the top of his career and with a spotless reputation, decides to "out" himself in a press conference. From here on, the play illustrates how his relationships with teammates, media and fans change especially with relief pitcher Shane Mungit (Frederick Weller), a rather ignorant bigot who strangely manages to get some sympathy from the audience, and Mason Marzac (Denis O'Hare), Lemming's homosexual financial adviser who becomes a baseball fan. Mr. Sunjata, Mr. Weller and Mr. O'Hare excel in their performances.
|TAKE ME OUT|
|Written by: Richard Greenberg.|
Directed by: Joe Montello.
Cast: Kevin Carroll, Dominic Fumusa, Gene Gabriel, Neal Huff, Robert M. Jim始ez, Joe Lisi, Denis O'Hare, Kohl Sudduth, Daniel Sunjata, Frederick Weller, James Yaegashi.
|Walter Kerr Theatre|
219 W. 48th St.
Opens: Feb. 4, 2003
The set of "Take Me Out" (by Scott Pask) along with sound and lighting (Janet Kalas and Kevin Adams) attempt to transport the audience to the atmosphere of a live game, and although the excitement of it is not always realized, the play compensates with the complexity of its characters, and the wonderful cast who play them.
Mr. Greenberg's sense of language is impressive, with dialogue that rattles off fascinating nuances about baseball, and almost all the characters generously share their viewpoints with the audience. Rather than seeming obsolete, or talky, the use of a narrator Lemming's teammate and friend Kippy Sunderstor (brilliantly played by Neal Huff) opens a window into the fascination of baseball and the complexity of the characters' struggles. Tackling subjects such as homosexuality, race and well, baseball, and lasting close to three hours, "Take Me Out" manages to never be boring.
I was, however, troubled by a couple of things: Out of eleven characters from all walks of life, there are two who are completely one-dimensional and stereotypical, and they happened to be the Latinos. Rodriguez and Martinez, played by Gene Gabriel and Robert M. Jim始ez are the only two characters who don't even have first names, never mind a scene of their own. Their interactions with the other characters reinforce the macho, non-English-speaking stereotype of a Latino baseball player. This is a shame for two reasons: First, Mr. Gabriel ("Bye Bye Birdie," "Sylvia") and Mr. Jim始ez ("Inherit the Wind," "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," "Black Codes from the Underground") are extremely gifted actors whose talent is never fully realized here, although they perform miraculously with the little they are given. Second, it takes only a few keystrokes on the Internet to find out that, as of the end of the 1999 season, nine out of the top ten hitters in the American League were Latino or had Latino roots; and at the start of the 2000 season, there were 170 Latino players in the major leagues. It does get tiring to see Latinos misrepresented (when represented at all) in the theater, let alone exploited by baseball. (In 1996, the Texas Rangers acquired Sammy Sosa for $3,500, the same amount that the Brooklyn Dodgers paid for Jackie Robinson in 1946.)
Still, Mr. Greenberg gives voice to most of the characters beautifully African-American, Italian, Japanese (Takeshi Kawabata, played by James Yaegashi, delivers a touching monologue about his playing philosophy and Hiroshima). Yet, he fails to rise above the Latino stereotype (remember Garrett Morris' "SNL" caricature, "Baseball been very, very good to me"?) in a play that is precisely about breaking stereotypes.
Then there are the nude shower scenes, a total of three. As pleasing to the eye as they might be, they are, overall, distracting. The first one makes a statement, the second (a whole team taking a shower!) is a feast to the eye, but pretty pointless. Come the third, probably the only one that the play needs, we've already seen all there is to see.
Overall, "Take Me Out" is a timely, smart and very enjoyable play that seems Broadway-worthy. For Mr. Greenberg, however, I would suggest the following Web sites: latinobaseball.com, latinosportslegends.com and robertoclemente21.com, so he can do justice to all his characters.
|SEPTEMBER 13, 2002|
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Sosa from Manny Ramirez, Feb 10, 2004
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