Not without reason is that Darren Lemming, the fictional center fielder of a team called Empires, is also at the center of “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s gay fantasia of national entertainment.
Said to be a “five -tool player with such incredible grace that he made it doubtful to have a sixth -tool,” Lemming surpassed even Derek Jeter – who is who he is to a model degree – in versatility, consistency and the kind of arrogance that, which comes from goodness, adds charisma. He was a natural baseball star and, when he decided to come out as gay, a natural irritant to drama.
At its best, “Take Me Out,” which opened Monday with a fine revival at the Helen Hayes Theater, is a five -instrument play. It’s (1) ridiculous, with a remarkable height of humor for a thread that is (2) very serious, and (3) a brain that doesn’t damage (4) its emotions. I’m not sure if (5) is considered a tool or a lot, but “Take Me Out” gives meaty roles to a group of actors, led in this Second Stage Theater production by Jesse Williams as Lemming and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as his fanboy business manager.
Granted, dropping a few flies on the road and throwing some wild pitches – pardon the baseball metaphors, that the game indulges with the enthusiasm of a convert – makes “Take Me Out” a bit confusing. in parts. This is not the kind of work that has benefited so much from postgame analysis, which reveals errors in construction and logic. But in the show, now no less than 2002, when it made its New York debut at the Public Theater, it was often both pleasant and irritating. Perhaps especially for gays, it’s also a useful correction to the feeling of being excluded from a necessary game.
By that I don’t mean baseball itself but the examination of masculinity through its lens. In “Take Me Out,” Lemming’s announcement that he’s gay, motivated by no scandal and no lover involved, is a reason for a disquisition of masculinity. What it finds in the locker room, where Empires change, shower, snap towels and fight, is as hopeless as it finds in the field hopeful and still good.
Connecting them, Lemming is a form of the mysterious god. Aside from his dull technical skill, he’s the kind of man, like his teammate Kippy Sunderstrom (Patrick J. Adams) describes him, where chaos doesn’t “come out.” Lemming believes that whatever he does will benefit his well-being, and that unlike most people who are so important, his homosexuality is just one of the “irrelevancies” of his life, such as good looks and biracial.
What he didn’t realize was the way, for his teammates, the revelation weakened his aura to perfection while revealing the cracks in their less -than -perfect airtight psyches. They feel differently now about their nakedness, which is why the audience is asked to consider it as well. (But not the wider world; patrons have to put their phones in the Yondr pouch to prevent being photographed.) No matter how good he is, someone who isn’t dressed naturally isn’t to protect.
As a result, the Empires, which were previously on track for the World Series, began to lose unity and, soon after, games. Homophobia comes out of the dark areas of other men’s souls; even Lemming’s best friend, Davey Battle, a religious man who plays for an opposing team in more ways than one, has nothing to do with it. And, with the arrival of Shane Mungitt, a pitcher called up from the minor leagues, confusion erupted in a shocking brutal act.
Yet “Take Me Out” isn’t just about getting down to the chaos of the toy; it is also, in the story of the business manager, Mason Marzac, about the rise of spirit in the same area. Marzac, the kind of gay who felt he had no place in the heterosexual world or even in the gay community – “I was outside of them. It’s possible under them, ”he said-very pleased with the release of Lemming, his new client. In that work he saw the possibility of a reintegration into the mainstream of Americanness, and later developed a maniacal interest in the game.
That his new-found fandom is often a way to redirect an impossible crush doesn’t make it less meaningful; that kind of sublimation can be an unspoken aspect of a lot of sports mania. Ferguson makes that feeling readable in a much slower, less bitter take on Marzac than the one created by the bright Denis O’Hare, who won a Tony Award for 2003 Broadway production. Ferguson unleashes Marzac’s injury in a strangely detailed comic book performance that is despite being full of longing and unexpected joy.
But if Lemming and baseball took Marzac out of his shell of defensive pessimism – one of the many meanings wrapped in the grand -slam pun in the title – Marzac also took Lemming out of his eternity. Surprisingly this element, the most bizarre in real life, feels most believable on stage, and only in part because of the drama of the locker-room, which involves so many obvious devices that are shocking. as well as a lot of crazy, a little crumbling as the story progresses. . A later scene added for this production, between Lemming and two cops, doubles down on that problem.
But while Lemming and Marzac form a bond – not romantic but not untender, though – the ideas Greenberg is juggling, about uniting the ball field and uniting the psyche, fully pays off. Williams, a newcomer to the stage but longtime star of the television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” points to the way the beauty of talents keeps them to full life; perhaps the seemingly effortlessness of his own career gave him an understanding of the downside of too much ease.
Under the confidence and strong direction of Scott Ellis when vision is powerless, the other cast members make excellent utility players, moving quickly between moments of spotlight and background work. as team members. In particular, Michael Oberholtzer, as Mungitt, seems to have lost his damaged self if he hadn’t released bizarre biographical tidbits or hatred. And as Battle, Brandon J. Dirden, recently on a stellar turn as the factory foreman of “Skeleton Crew,” giving a perfectly sculpted performance on the other end of the spectrum, found his faith in a sanctimony that replaces even love.
In fact, Battle is the one who inadvertently drives the plot, telling Lemming that in order to be a perfect man he must want his “whole self to be known.” Finally, “Take Me Out” is about the danger posed by the challenge for some people – a danger that others are unaware of. However, Greenberg shows us, it is important for happiness, and not just for gays, even if it introduces many difficulties. A game doesn’t have to be perfect to win.
Until May 29 at the Helen Hayes Theater, Manhattan; 2st.com. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.