TAKE ME OUT by Richard Greenberg, directed by Morris Panych, with Thom Allison, Matthew MacFadzean, David Storch, Mike Shara, Randy Hughson, Aaron Franks and Jovanni Sy. Presented by CanStage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to February 12, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $36-$80, some Monday pwyc, rush and student tickets. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Take me out eventually makes contact, but it doesn't hit a grand slam.
A Tony winner about a major-league baseball player who outs himself, and the consequences of that action, the piece has several themes that go beyond gayness.
What's more central is the character of Darren Lemming ( Thom Allison ), the acclaimed ball player with a black mother and white father, and his self-perceived perfection. Unaware, perhaps, of his effect on others, Darren also wears blinders about himself; he's an isolated figure on a pedestal, and likes it just fine.
What we're intended to watch is the revelation of his Achilles heel, an unveiling that tears apart several lives and relationships.
Trouble is, playwright Richard Greenberg has nothing to reveal. As charming as Allison is, with his big grin and even his later angry pouts, the enigma he embodies is never revealed, and that cheats us by the end.
While Greenberg's script has some clever writing, its laughs are too often glib. There are some well-phrased looks at racism, homophobia and the thrill of the game - one splendid speech is about how baseball embodies hope in a democratic society - but the piece fails to give us a sense of the camaraderie that would give it added meaning.
Still, director Morris Panych 's production has some fine acting, notably Matthew MacFadzean's as Kippy Sunderstrom, the intelligent and articulate narrator who thinks he can bring everything to a satisfying resolution.
David Storch beautifully channels Mason Marzac, a nerdy accountant who's turned on to the thrill of the diamond by his contact with Darren. An outsider even among his fellow gays, Mason's the one character in the play who has an identifiable emotional arc. Storch plays him with increasingly delightful exuberance; it's as if the actor has downed a whole bottle of frisky pills.
The other standout performance is that of Mike Shara , who helps us find some sympathy for the homophobic, racist Shane Mungitt, giving the show some involving emotion toward its end. By the final curtain we feel something for him, which can't be said about many of the other characters, even Darren.
In a play about people who think they're doing right but end up causing tragedy, a play filled with secrets, Greenberg ends up teasing the audience with a promise that he has something up his sleeve.
In the end, he doesn't spill the beans.