Playwright Richard Greenberg explores some loaded subjects in "Take Me Out," a Tony-winning comedy-drama that has landed in San Francisco. Looking at homophobia and racism in professional sports, he also pays homage to baseball, the American pastime. The central character is Darren Lemming (M.D. Walton), a biracial baseball superstar who comes out of the closet while his team, the New York Empires, are in hot pursuit of the pennant and World Series. His announcement causes some uneasiness among his teammates, but nothing can compare with the bigoted rant from a new teammate, Shane Mungitt (Harlon George), a pitching whiz brought up from a farm team to be a closer for the Empires.
Other primary characters are Kippy Sunderstrom (Doug Wert), who regards himself as Darren's best friend on the team; Mason Marzac (T. Scott Cunningham), the gay man who becomes Darren's accountant; and Davey Battle (Charles Parnell), Darren's best friend who also plays for the Empires' major rival. The roles of both Kippy and Mason are the best-written in the all-male cast. Kippy is a likeable, articulate man who does his best to keep peace on the team and to be a friend to Darren. Mason has zero self-confidence, but he's in awe of Darren, especially after learning he's gay. He initially knows nothing about baseball, but he makes an effort to learn and soon finds himself totally wrapped up in all its nuances. His paeans to the sport are eloquent reflections of Greenberg's belated and deep devotion to it.
Aside from Kippy and Mason, however, no other character is well developed. Even Darren is a disappointment. His friend Davey tells him to be who he is, but the religiously righteous Davey has no idea that Darren is gay. Otherwise, the script gives little motivation for why Darren decided to come out of the closet. As played by Walton, he mostly seems immature and arrogant, making him a less than sympathetic character.
The other characters are mostly caricatures of athletes: the dumb jock, the swaggering jock, the Hispanics who talk only to each other because they speak no English and the standout Japanese-speaking pitcher who talks only to himself. However, director Joe Mantello, who also directed the Broadway production, paces the action well, especially in the game scenes. Design values are high with sets by Scott Pask, costumes by Jess Goldstein lighting by Kevin Adams. Sound by Janet Kalas captures the excitement of the ballpark and other venues, but people at the opening night complained that they couldn't hear the actors well enough. Their lines were lost, sometimes because the apparently unmiked actors didn't project well enough in the huge venue and sometimes they didn't wait for laughter to subside.
The notorious shower scenes, which involve full nudity, go on too long, but they apparently depict the locker room atmosphere that's changed when the men learn their teammate is gay. It's just unfortunate that Darren's character isn't better developed to provide even more insight and interest.
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