Take Me Out to “Take Me Out”
Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out” is a theater guy’s love letter to baseball geeks the world-wide. It’s also an astute commentary on modern American race relations, sexual identity, and celebrity. This heady mix of deep-dish topics could have easily become a didactic bore, but in Greenberg’s hands it is an involving story where the different themes and plot lines dovetail gracefully to form an entertaining and thoughtful whole.
Likewise, “Take Me Out” benefits from Richmond Triangle Players production that, when taken as a whole, is superb.
This show was initially to have been done last season, but the Triangle Players wisely decided to wait until they had their own space, one that could provide the proper stage for this locker room set production. Yes the showers work , and yes there are some appropriately athletic physiques on FULL display- if you like that sort of thing. Lesbians and vegetarians be warned: this show contains sausage. Lighting by K. Jenna Ferree, sound design by Julie Fulcher, and Larin Brink’s costumes all work together seamlessly to enhance director Scott Wichmann’s able and astute hand at the helm.
Wichmann’s cast turns in some fine performances. Ronnie Brown does a great job of taking the central character- Darren Lemming- from super-star cool to a vulnerable and ultimately far more human place by the play’s end. Matt Hackman’s Kippy- Darren’s best friend on the team and the erstwhile narrator of the action- is sensitive, smart, and ultimately blind-sided by his own naivete, and we the audience believe every minute of it thanks to Hackman’s well-calibrated performance. Jimmy Glidden’s Shane Mungitt is impressive. Usually an actor is given words with which to convey his character’s feelings. Glidden doesn’t have that luxury with Mungitt because his character is deliberately written as inarticulate. Glidden smolders along nicely, with a feral gaze that could bore through steel or freeze water in a glass until he finally erupts with a ferocity that shakes the stage.
In smaller roles, Jay Welch is an adorable doofus as the team’s catcher, Ken Moretti is, ahem, pitch-perfect as the team’s manager and Eddie Tavares takes another line-starved role as the team’s nearly mute Japanese pitcher and makes it shine. Thomas E. Nowlin uses his uncanny resemblance to a young Jesse Jackson to good effect as the preacherly best friend Davey Battle, and Vinnie Gonzalez, Elliot Lau, and Donzell Lewis round out the team and the cast with solid performances.
And then there’s Kirk Morton’s Mason Marzac, Lemming’s out of the closet business manager, who stands in for the uninitiated where baseball is concerned and the community representative for gays. As written, Marzac represents the fervor of the newly converted and the insecurity of the single gay man. As performed by Morton he is transformed into an histrionic buffoon who elicits cheap laughs at the expense of his own humanity. Catapulted in from planet Liza/Liberace, Morton’s character threatens to ruin the entire show with his hysterically breathless delivery and non-stop, truly sissified mannerisms.
The combination of actor and part are so toxic that if it weren’t for the strength of the tapestry woven by all other aspects of the production, the show would be rent asunder. Morton is a performer of many talents, but in this case he is ill-used. It’s like asking Carol Burnett to step into a Greta Garbo role, it can’t work on any other level other than camp.
As it is, “Take Me Out” remains a show too good to miss. RTP deserves credit for yet another excellent production this year. By my calculations they are batting a rather extraordinary .750 or so this season.
Critic’s Note: I should reveal that I auditioned for the part of Mason Marzac and obviously didn’t get it. Nevertheless, had I not auditioned my review would read the same.
T.K. Slonaker III is a local free-lance writer who received his BA in English from VCU and concentrated his studies in British Drama.
In praise of ‘Hand Grenades’ at RTP, where gay is so normal that it can be ordinary (last performance tonight!)
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