Thursday, June 16, 2005

 

"Take Me Out" at the Studio

I went to the Saturday matinee of "Take Me Out," a strong play by Richard Greenberg, a playwright I admire from one of his previous works, "Three Days of Rain." The show, for those living abroad or for hockey fans, is about a baseball player, well played by M.D. Walton, who comes out of the closet.

The Studio's production is excellent, so captivating that after a while I didn't care that I was watching naked men shower--seated near MY PARENTS AND THEIR FRIENDS, a group that has been attending shows together for decades. (They switched their subscriptions en masse from Arena Stage to the Studio Theater several years ago.) We are still adjusting to the new renovations at the Studio, which seem to make the theater a part of 14th Street, rather than a P Street institution. We like the renovations, but change is difficult. We eventually all found each other, still remarking on the new entrance. Did I mention this was a theater group that likes its traditions?

I know many people have not yet seen the show, so I won't give much away. Anyway, they say that successful theater is not so much about what happens on stage, but what happens to the audience, and we have not talked this animatedly for a while. (It's been a long Russian winter at the Studio). I learned, for the first time, that my parents' group consists of several rabid Red Sox fans (is there any other type of Red Sox fan?), a longsuffering Chicago Cubs fan, several budding Washington Nationals fans, and my Dad and his friend Marty, who are Giants fans (that's New York Giants, kids). The Baltimore Orioles fans could not be with us, alas. (Many of us are related to Yankee fans.) Everyone in the group enjoyed the show --a rare consensus-- except for the Red Sox fans, who LOVED it, and said it was the best thing the Studio had put on in ages (it's been a long Russian winter...) and wanted a character's moving speech about the Meaning of Baseball put on a CD and placed in all our nation's schools. Red Sox fans are a little emotional of late.

One of my favorite parts of Saturday's show--again without ruining the play for others--was when a loveable character, the player's accountant, magnificently and memorably played by Rick Foucheux, addressed the audience. Sometimes breaking down the fourth wall annoys me if I'm caught up in the play--the soliloquy rarely advances the plot or the characters--but these addresses worked well in this play. Someone's cell phone rang in the audience, and Mr. Foucheux stopped, and said, "I'll just wait." The person had trouble silencing the phone. "Do you need help?" Mr. Foucheux asked. We all laughed. It was wonderful that such an annoyance could be integrated into the dialogue, allowing us to join the character on stage, if only for a moment.

The discussion afterwards was not as uninhibited as usual--there are sensitive themes raised in the play. So I was grateful when the actors took the initiative, particularly Jeorge Bennett Watson, whose powerful performance as the best friend of the main character, striving to live a straight and narrow life, made him the real star of the show in my book. He was the only one who spoke of the role of the media in the play. The two ball players were frequently interviewed together, and he mentioned the difficulties that the revelation that your best friend was gay might create. There were other themes, such as the divides between North and South, and educated and uneducated, that we did not explore, though the play dwells on them as much as the black/white, gay/straight divisions. The Latino characters also didn't have much to do except speak Spanish--there's another play about Latino players waiting to be written. The Japanese character, played by Ikuma Isaac, was so believable, in his isolation and fierce determination to succeed as a stranger in a strange land. The play is about loneliness as much as anything else, a bit like "Three Days of Rain."

The acting was superb throughout. I did appreciate the actors coming out to talk with us afterwards, especially since they have to do the show again in a few hours. Jake Suffian was terrifyingly real as the bigoted pitcher brought in to help the team, yet such a gentleman during the discusson! Basically I wanted to see more of everyone, and wanted the play to last longer. There is no greater tribute to everyone invovlved in this production.

I walked home and encountered the Capital Pride parade, a celebration of gay/lesbian/transgendered DC. It was a perfect ending to a perfect afternoon.

Comments:
Congratulations on getting the blog up and running and thanks for the write-up on Take Me Out. Can't wait to see it in a coupla weeks. When my partner and I saw it in New York, he couldn't figure out why I'd be interested in a baseball show (not being especially interested in the sport, though he's a big fan). Afterwards he teased me about wanting to see it for the shower scenes! On our way back to our hotel we ran into one of the cast members standing on the subway platform. I only recognized him because his baseball hat had the show's name on the front and he was reading a book in Japanese. He was very friendly and hoped the show would win a Tony as it was in danger of closing at the time due to slow sales.
 
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