I don't care much for baseball, but the fantastic Rep production of Richard Greenberg's Tony-winning, Pulitzer-nominated Take Me Out gave me an inkling as to what all the fuss is about. It's a rollicking, ecstatic, mentally- and visually-stimulating (!) insight into what I'm told is one of our country's favorite pastimes, beautifully combining the traditionalistic nature of the highly American sport with contemporary issues of sexuality, homophobia, and multiculturalism.
Most of the action takes place in the locker room (rumor has it that the ingenious sets — complete with running shower water! — were purchased from the New York production before the Rep had even secured the rights), and… OK, I just can't go any further without mentioning how much full-frontal male nudity is on display — you'll just have to see it for yourself to understand what I mean about 'visually-stimulating'. This play features a more favorable dong-per-minute quotient than your average Ewan film. And that's sayin' somethin'.
The biggest part (and take that however you want — you'll be right) is that of Darren Lemming (charming M.D. Walton, hot in and out of uniform), a biracial superstar player who stuns the public — and his teammates — by casually revealing to the press that he's gay. Darren's open-minded hetero teammate Kippy (Doug Wert) is the principal narrator of the story, which goes forth effortlessly to explore many layers of identity — personal, professional, and sexual — as seen through the experiences of a gay-homo star in a predominantly straight-hetero world.
The arrival of an ignorant, bigoted relief pitcher named Shane Mungitt (Harlon George, the sole weak casting choice) brings matters to a head when he mouths off to the media with derogatory comments about Darren's sexuality and race. (Sound familiar? In 1999, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was quoted as saying he didn't want to ride on the New York subway "next to some queer with AIDS", and in the same interview disparaged Asian Americans and other minorities by commenting that he's "not a very big fan of foreigners… how the hell did they get in this country?") Shane is rightfully banished, but loyalties are tested when the team begins to lose without him.
Darren's timid and openly gay accountant, Mason Marzac (T. Scott Cunningham, who doesn't get nekkid but who brings a giddy self-depreciation to his role that often steals the show), presents a fascinating contrast to the dismissive Darren; their friendship develops gradually, and it's touching and hilarious to witness the superstar growing to like and respect one of his most loyal fans. (Mason also adds a rousing touch of political perspective to the game that he has learned to love: "Baseball achieves the tragic vision that democracy evades," he rapturously declares. "Democracy is lovely, but baseball's more mature.")
Take Me Out is full of such moments, and director Joe Mantello (who helmed the London debut and later won the Tony for last year's Broadway mounting) guides it all beautifully. Gifted Broadway designers Scott Pask (scenery), Jess Goldstein (costumes) and Kevin Adams (lighting) are also on board, helping Take Me Out score another home-run for what's shaping up to be a stellar Rep season.