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      The Savior of Fenway
    Farewell to the monster

    Smartly written and solidly acted, "The Savior of Fenway" uses four people's conversations in a small-town bar to suggest the imbroglios raging outside, from the home fires to the home field.


    Sweeney (Joe Burch) even looks like Wade Boggs — the brilliant Red Sox batting champion who ultimately helped the Yankees win a World Series — and so he's a perfect one to expound on the cosmic unfairness of being a Red Sox fan from his Quincy, Mass., barstool.

    Company: Full Circle.
    Written by: Brendon Bates.
    Directed by: Michael Laibson.
    Cast: Brendon Bates, John Highsmith, Joe Burch, Nate Meyer.

    Related links: Official site
    Cooper Union, Wollman Auditorium / Lounge
    51 Astor Place
    Aug. 8-24, 2003

    "If there is a God, the Red Sox will win a championship before they tear [Fenway Park] down," he tells the barkeep. "It'll be the final test with me, man. No world championship, no God."

    Walshie's bar is the perfect kind of neighborhood place to set a play in as well as watch a ballgame in. The patrons have been drinking together since high school. The bartender has been settling their arguments with harmless white lies for years. A regular like Sweeney asks, "You need anything before I take off?" and nobody thinks this is backwards.

    As with any good story about baseball, or bars, "The Savior of Fenway" is not fundamentally about either. It's about the people watching the baseball in the bars, each of its two acts starting in the final minutes of an ALCS loss and going forward from there. In this case, it's about four men with a long history together, and often about the lives spinning precariously outside the bar's four walls.

    Sweeney is a man's man, but getting past his prime. Now he's got a paunch, an ex-wife, and an overwhelming resentment of Walshie's assistant, Patty (John Highsmith) — a younger fella who still has a life ahead of him, if he doesn't waste his opportunities. With a sick mother to care for, Patty's been working two or three jobs instead of finishing college and taking advantage of feelers from the Blue Jays' scouts.

    Walshie is more than a bartender. Patty at one point mentions "the Peacemaker," meaning the gun kept behind the counter in case thugs try to rob the place and the aluminum baseball bat isn't deterrent enough, but Walshie is the real peacemaker in the place. Not half the macho man — or the hothead — that his patrons are, Walshie juggles the bar's divergent personalities with a steady stream of blandishments and white lies, each intended to avert trouble, many causing more trouble later.

    Walshie's opposite number in terms of personality is Shane, whose chaotic rage is expressed offstage for the first third of the play, as he destroys the entire bathroom in drunken anger against the baseball gods. And yet, just as paper covers rock, Walshie has the power to calm Shane's massive temper.

    Petty hatreds, cheating women, wasted years and the impending destruction of the Red Sox home stadium — all of the evils swirling around the world of Walsh's bar are aspects of the same cosmic virtue-vs.-sin, God-vs.-Satan, Adam-vs.-Eve, Sox-vs.-Yanks cataclysm. Shane wants violent revenge on the universe, and more specifically on the owners of the Red Sox, and at least revenge on his faithless wife would be an adequate substitute. Danger is hanging in the air like cigarette smoke at last call.

    "The Savior of Fenway" is a very strong piece of work by Brendon Bates (who also plays Shane) — filled with skillful dialogue, complex character relationships and tension. It's solidly acted, directed and staged to the point where we're rarely conscious of the limitations of the Fringe Festival, where entire sets have to be put up and torn down in mere minutes. As any play set in a bar must be, it is a little more real than real, the people a little harder than hard, the dialogue occasionally too clever by half. It's a well-done drama of average people in a small corner of a big world.

    AUGUST 17, 2003

    Reader comments on The Savior of Fenway:

  • Walshie!   from Brian Shuman, Aug 21, 2003
  • Bates   from Jason Shear, Sep 20, 2005

  • Post a comment on "The Savior of Fenway"