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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the October 16, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New York Review: `Take Me Out’
The 2002 Broadway season started off in high style
with "Hairspray," a hit comparable to "The Producers."
As if to say we are not going to be outdone, Off-Broadway’s Public
Theater responded with an equally early home run with "Take Me
Out," the Richard Greenberg play about a major league baseball
player who "comes out." Following its extended run at The
Public, "Take Me Out" is expected to move to Broadway.
If Richard Greenberg’s play "Take Me Out" becomes the hit
it deserves to be, it will bring him the recognition he deserves as
one of the best playwrights America has produced. It will also be
hard to listen to that grand old baseball song "Take Me Out to
the Ball Game," without thinking about a new subtext for the old
With no apologies to the real major league ball player who was inclined
this past summer to call a press conference in his own defense, Greenberg
has created a good-looking, bi-racial superstar playing for the top
team in the league who decides to come out of the closet. He does
this during a TV interview in the height of the season. The all-male
play, which played to great success in London this summer, has garnered
a lot of attention because of its shower room scenes with full frontal
nudity. But as with all of Greenberg plays ("The Dazzle,"
"Three Days of Rain"), the terrific dialogue, absorbing characters,
and compelling situations are most impressive.
This is not to say that the raw exhibition of beefcake won’t be momentarily
distracting for those who can’t listen and look at the same time.
Homophobia, and its resulting effect on a team — the New York
Empires — results in repercussions that follow the self-assured
star center fielder Darren Lemming (Daniel Sunjata) from his attempt
to be honest and bold about his homosexuality to the challenges that
accompany his decision. Buoyed by his own hubris, Lemming has every
intention to meet the challengers that surprisingly are not the more
up front and confrontational members of the team. How he does it and
how his outing is dealt with by him, his team, and the management
is revealed through Kippy (Neal Huff), a shortstop and Lemming’s friend
until a surprise twist, who serves as the play’s narrator.
Interestingly, the play never delves into Lemming’s private life.
Instead, it keeps its focus on what effect an intrusion of gayness
has in the macho world of baseball. The play is not without humor,
especially a scene in the shower room when the players exhibit the
predictable response to a dropped bar of soap. Director Joe Mantello
masterfully manipulates the players that populate Scott Pask’s steely
Tension is created between Lemming and Shane Mungit (Frederick Weller),
a pea-brained relief player from Arkansas whose openly expressed bigotry
brings more disruption to the clubhouse than all the ribbing and restrained
and often funny responses from the other players. Sunjata is superb
as the arrogant but also affable Lemming. For all Greenberg’s purposefulness
in picking one of the more unlikely milieus for a gay issue, it is
to his credit how much passion is revealed for the game and for its
During the play, Lemming’s gay business manager Mason Marzak (Denis
O’Hare), whose awe of his client is kept in the closet, becomes enamored
of the game. He is impelled to deliver a climactic speech on the nature
and beauty of the sport that is as intellectually compelling as it
is emotionally moving. Although Greenberg’s tendency is toward overwriting
(the play is three hours long, with two intermissions), he gives the
characters enough wit and complexity to support the ethnic stereotyping
that colors their predisposed personalities. Lasting through the extra
innings is as easy as predicting that this play could easily take
the pennant at season’s end.
— Simon Saltzman
York. $45. Tele-Charge, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. To November
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