Sports meets philosophy in Take Me Out, an introspective and talk-heavy play, currently at the Phoenix Theatre.
Mason Marzac (played by Charles Goad, foreground) waxes poetic about the democracy of baseball in the regional theater premiere of ‘Take Me Out’ by Richard Greenberg at the Phoenix Theatre. Behind him are, from left to right, Roger Ortman, Ben Rose and Gerson Dacanay.
The show is set around a gay baseball player who comes out of the closet, but the play is about more than that; it deals with communication — the lack thereof, the inherent need for it in relationships, etc. This is not a play about a sport, and it is not a “gay play.” Take Me Out rises above both genres to be a play that has sports and gay people in it, but transcends those elements and envelops them. Instead of just being about how hard it is to be a gay guy, the show moves beyond that aspect to tell a broader story. Ben Rose plays Darren Lemming, an African-American golden child who has everything going for him, then outs himself at a press conference. Now, he must face being the poster child for gay men everywhere and is exposed to a new kind of ignorance and bigotry. Along the way, he develops a friendship with gay accountant Mason Marzac, played by Charles Goad, and deals with the effects his announcement makes on his two closest friends: Kippy Sunderstrom, played by Michael Shelton, and Davey Battle, played by O’Neil Keesling. Finally, unlearned hilljack Shane Mungitt, played by Nick Carpenter, does something that will affect Darren in a way that he has never experienced before in his sheltered life. These relationships make the play. Darren and Mason find an honest bond with one another, while Kippy feels hurt that he wasn’t let in on the secret. Davey, however, turns his back on Darren. We see Darren grow each time he has to handle these evolving situations. “People have to talk.” This is a theme, whether it is understanding the language of the multi-ethnic ball players, mastering the use of the English language or picking up on what someone is trying to say in between the lines. The play is extremely well-written. There is so much packed into the script, taking it all in could require multiple viewings. As for the cast, Rose is a natural, laid-back Darren — a wunderkind who has been untouched by trouble until now. Shelton is innocently idealistic — to the point that his wide-eyed overenthusiasm could be considered over the top. But the scene-stealer here is Goad. His Mason is an effeminate chap who can’t get laid and hasn’t many friends, but his insights into baseball as a reflection of democracy and life are charmingly delivered, with a flighty yet elegant demeanor. Carpenter as Shane is a convincing lunkhead, and each member of the supporting cast gets a chance to shine. Oh yeah, and the shower scenes. James Gross’ set construction is brilliant, with real working showers. However, the sound of the water, combined with a gaggle of guys baring it all on stage, make Shelton’s dialogue at that point hard to follow. Overall, director Bryan Fonseca has crafted a regional theater premiere that I am sure would make Broadway proud. Take Me Out continues at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., through May 23; call 635-PLAY.