Race, masculinity, and American identity have all played a key role in making baseball the national pastime. Richard Greenberg, the playwright behind the Tony-award winning Take Me Out (now playing at 12th Avenue Arts through Strawberry Theatre Workshop), understands baseball’s all-encompassing scope, and attempts to use it as means for a spectacle of societal discourse. His results are mixed, but when performed by a capable cast, certain moments hold all the power baseball possesses.
The concept is compelling enough to make one wish it had been handled differently. There's no doubt that the highly-decorated Greenberg is a talented playwright. Whether he’s the one to pen a play of this subject matter is another question. Darren Lemming (Lamar Legend), a mixed-race pro baseball player seemingly based off Derek Jeter comes out abruptly as gay, unbeknownst to the weight of his action. Lemming must then adapt to his demoted status, going from untouchable golden boy to the patronized poster child for a community he doesn’t identify with. When screw-loose Shane Mungitt (Craig Peterson)—a red-state rogue with a habit for saying bigoted slurs—joins Lemming’s team, tensions give way to a cultural battleground. The plot has all has the makings for a fascinating dissection of baseball in all its glory and carnage, a symbol of Americana that has both unified and divided the country. With the historical context of baseball’s long-winded journey to racial integration, there is certainly potential for a truly explosive work. Unfortunately, Take Me Out doesn’t quite live up to that potential until the second act.Take Me Out at Strawberry Theatre Workshop. Photo by John Ulman.