Take Me Out has been succinctly described as "the gay baseball play with a full-frontal shower scene". It is also a love letter to America's Favorite Pastime, written by Richard Greenberg.
The play's morally ambiguous hero is Darren Lemming (played with easy confidence by Ara Boghigian), a handsome, and supremely talented baseball player of mixed race who, at the pinnacle of his career, rather blithely comes out of the closet as a gay man. Telling the truth is not without its consequence, however. His team, the recently slumping Empires, has just recruited a young pitching sensation, Shane Mungit (Jeff Church), from their farm team. The ornery Mungit hails from the Deep South and has apparently never been taught about the Civil Rights Movement.
Darren's "best friend on the team", Kippy Sunderstrom (Tim White), is much like Jiminy Cricket, a patient moral compass for the cocky superstar athlete to disregard. White gives a fine performance as Kippy, who is progressive enough to be comfortable maintaining the same level of worshipful bromance with a now-openly gay man. This, even as Darren's oldest friend, Davey Battle (Marlon Carey), finds the revelation morally repugnant and makes a special trip to the locker room to let Darren know how he feels.
Tempers flare and hateful words, which can never be taken back, are shouted across the rows of lockers.
One right after the other, Greenberg provides lyrical walk-n-talk monologues and dialogues that the actors get to knock out of the park.
No actor on stage is more blessed with gorgeous dialogue than is Kevin Broccoli as Darren's new, lonely but loquacious, investment manager, Mason Marzac. Broccoli is naïve, open and charming as he effortlessly delivers Mason's stream of consciousness epiphanies as the repressed middle-manager's narrow existence broadens and he comes to appreciate the magic and beauty of baseball.
Mason's character's aside, the ballplayers speak with a bit more introspection and self-awareness than one would expect; but you can simply sit back and enjoy the beauty of the writing. Director Ed Shea keeps this engaging story moving along at a good clip with help from Trevor Elliot's clever set design. Shea makes good use of Elliot's monolithic bright green scrim, evocative of Fenway Park's Green Monster. As the actors disrobed (all the way down to their all-togethers) the audience I attended with stayed seated and remained calm.
A decade after its first production, the themes of Take Me Out still resonate. While no longer on the books, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" still appears to be the law of the leagues. Sixty-five years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, there isn't a single "out" major leaguer playing today.
Take Me Out plays at 2nd Story Theatre through February 12, 2012. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office which is located at 28 Market St., Warren, RI; by phone at (401) 247 4200 or online at www.2ndstorytheatre.com.
Photo: Ara Boghigian as Darren Lemming in Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out. Photo by Richard W. Dionne Jr.; courtesy of 2nd Story Theatre.