Take Me Out comes to Philly in time for the Westboro Baptists.
A few weeks ago it came to my attention that the Westboro Baptist Church, under the direction of Fred Phelps, would be gracing Temple’s campus with its presence. The reason: to protest the simultaneous presentations of Temple Theaters’ Rent and Queer Student Union’s The Laramie Project because “that is what this nation needs, more pushy loud-mouthed professors yip-yapping lies about Matthew Shepard.”
The Kansas-based homophobic group will be on Main Campus April 1. It will be setting up protests at the Student Center and in front of Tomlinson Theater, and counter-protests are already being planned by Temple’s gay community and the theater community. For me this is angering and, in some ways, comical, but it goes to show you that open-mindedness and freedom are not alive everywhere. In the spirit of this ridiculous occasion, I decided to take this time to celebrate what makes theater what it is – the gays.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the new production of Richard Greenberg’s Tony Award-winning play Take Me Out at the Plays and Players Theatre. Take Me Out follows a baseball team, the Empires, and the drama that ensues after its star-player comes out of the closet. At first it seems like a cliché premise – take a conservative pasttime and throw in progressive thinking, and you have your drama. But what is so genius about the piece is the writing. Greenberg’s excellent characters are running on dreams and uncertainty but never lack a cunning sense of depth.
The play was originally produced at the Donmar Warehouse in London and then went to the Public Theater in Manhattan and then to Broadway in 2003. The Plays and Players new production allows for the ideals of baseball in the 1950s to be intertwined with the realities of today. The constant comparison between the American Dream and baseball runs through every line of the play.
Mason Marzac (played by Ryan Walter), our star-player’s accountant, who also happens to be overweight, uncomfortably nervous and gay, says of the relationship between our society and baseball, “democracy is lovely, but baseball is more mature.” He is talking about the fact that we pretend no one loses in a democratic state, but in baseball, losing is natural.
It is fantastic that this tiny theater has the bravery to put on such a huge show. There are multiple languages being spoken, huge – if sloppy – sets and a whole lot of nudity. Such a play would strike fear into any director but Daniel Student took this production on with grace. His direction is clean, without anything to overcomplicate the already complicated story. Gerard Joseph’s brooding and at times arrogant portrayal of the Empires’ star-hitter, Darren Lemming, is full of disparity with a touch of nonchalance. The new pitcher, who sets the drama rolling, Shane Mungitt, is played with spastic passion by Ted Powell. Additionally, Walter brings the comic relief with fervor and self-deprecation as Lemming’s accountant.
Take Me Out deals with homophobia, racism and teamwork. One can only imagine what kind of rebuttal the Westboro Baptist Church may have, but to me, this play is about acceptance, and that should be celebrated.
Max McCormack can be reached at email@example.com.