TAKE ME OUT
April 16, 2022
Richard Greenberg's play, Take Me Out centers on the "coming-out" of a beloved Major League center fielder, Darren Lemming's (Jesse Williams). No drama, no explanations--he simply issues a statement -- of course, this comes after signing one of the League's most lucrative contracts.
Almost 20 years ago, Greenberg's Pulitzer-nominated play raised eyebrows. Nowadays, when a sportsperson reveals they are gay, the news might be surprising, but it's not shocking. In 2003, "coming out" could be scandalous and ruinous. That said, it's hard to believe that even to this day, no Major League baseball athlete has admitted to being gay.
Fall-out from Lemming's announcement rocks the team and rabid baseball fans. A popular player, he keeps to himself with the exception of his friend the cerebral Kippy Sunderstrom (a very fine Patrick J. Adams) and another pal, Davey (Brandon J. Dirden). Soon after his revelation, Lemming hires Mason Marzac (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to handle his money.
Adept at navigating live audiences, Ferguson's comedic timing packs multiple home-runs. Openly gay, Mason becomes an unintended baseball fan and unexpected friend to the "too cool" and deeply remote Lemming.
Another thread tugged by Greenberg contemplates baseball's mystifying claim on the American psyche. While some consider baseball boring and deadly slow, others claim it is poetically meditative and spiritually up-lifting.
Sexual politics and baseball's philosophical allure intertwine in a complex tale of identity and recognition. When a power pitcher from the South joins the ranks, the team hits a blaze of winners. In an interview, the lanky, and woefully undereducated Shane Mungitt (Michael Oberholtzer) is asked about his relationship to the team. In response, Mungitt releases a string of epithets denigrating just about every single person on the team.
The cascade of slurs sounds like a baby vocalizing a long thread of words once heard. This episode pierces the team and finally forces Darren to come to terms with his life.
Nimbly directed by Scott Ellis, the action pops while tossing the sinewy narration from Kippy to Darren; Mason to the nearly illiterate Mungitt (Michael Oberholtzer).
Primarily set in the men's baseball locker room and shower stall, Take Me Out is awash in white bath towels and "stop and gaze at the audience" frontal nudity.
Led by the charismatic Williams, the finely-tuned ensemble cast includes the convincing Adams and hilarious Ferguson. For those who are fans of these three actors from their popular TV shows "Grey's Anatomy," "Suits" and "Modern Family"----you will not be disappointed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis