Take Me Out
Synopsis: Richard Greenberg examines America's obsession with baseball in an unusual context. This play deals with a star ballplayer coming out of the closet during a season filled with racial tension, violence and celebrity ego trips.
Back by popular demand is the revival of Richard Greenburg’s play “Take Me Out.” The story of a baseball player at the top of his game and the fallout that transpired after a rookie to the team gives an incendiary interview. This Tony-winning revival for a strictly limited run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre explores the rare topic of homosexuality in sports and the effect it has on the world.
Directed by Scott Ellis, this cast picks up the bat and heads to home base for a clean home run of a show. Scott Ellis knows what works on the stage and what doesn’t leading to a show looking natural and feels authentic. Pulling out the best and worst parts of each character from the actors in what are times can be a voyeuristic showcase. There are quite several standouts excelling under Mr. Ellis’s direction. Jesse Tyler Ferguson in his Tony-winning turn as Mason Marzac, the accountant of Darren Lemming, was comedic and authentic. From his development from quiet nobody to a proud fan, the journey and the dialogue begged the audience to cheer for him. Jessie Williams as the out and proud ball player Darren Lemming asked the questions needed in exploring this topic. Never faltering on the concept that being out doesn’t need to be linked to scandal or a relationship, it can just be a person wishing to live authentically. Last up to bat (I promise I’m all out of baseball puns after this) is Michael Oberholtzer as Shane Mungitt, the rookie with a heartbreaking past and problematic beliefs. Deeply impacted by the events of the show, Mr. Oberholtzer delivers a show-stopping performance in his last appearance as he goes to defend not only his actions but his beliefs.
The costume by Linda Cho and the scenic design by David Rockwell is simple and clean. Cho’s pressed baseball uniforms embossed with the team's logo and players' names were all that was needed and it worked. While Rockwell’s decision to utilize rotating boxes for the locker room and outside proved effective in progressing the story along, the working showers that dropped from the ceiling for multiple scenes provided a still simplistic, effective design.
Speaking of scenes in the shower, Take Me Out does feature full-frontal male nudity. The first scene is the first instance of this occurring. This leads to the debate of “was this necessary?” In a sense, yes. Each time it happened the accompanying dialogue attached to it was a pivotal conversation to be had. From topics of the queer male gaze and the belief by some straight-identifying folks that all gay men want to sleep with them, to the locker room talk and fear of being perceived as gay that suddenly came about for the team with the gay ball player.
Overall, Take Me Out was a charmingly, funny show delving into a deeply complex topic. At times the show made a sordid effort to explore in depth the topics, while in others it felt they’d only brushed the surface to keep the pace moving. The show itself also was mildly off-balance. The first act took place over 30-35 minutes while the second act scaled an hour and a half. This decision was decided to have the “mic drop” act 1 ending, but it left the show feeling a teeny bit off-kilter.
Ultimately, Take Me Out was a left-field home run earning a strong 4.5 out of 5 for the strong acting performances.
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