Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg, MTC, Sept 1, 2004

Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg 
Melbourne Theatre Company
 Playhouse, Sept 1 to  October 2, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Take Me Out, by Richard Greenberg, is a witty narrative about a US baseball player (Kenneth Ransom) and one fraught season with his team, the Empires.

Darren Lemming leads a charmed life - until he announces his homosexuality to the world.  After this crucial episode, he lives up to his surname.

The play is about baseball, which makes it inaccessible at times to an Australian audience. References to baseball rules, batting averages and home runs lose impact in a culture of Aussie Rules.

However, issues of sporting hero worship, sportsmanship, macho behaviour, homophobia and ambition are not isolated to baseball teams. Consider recent emotional moments at the Olympics.

Greenberg manages to integrate entertaining diatribes about democracy, language, religion and racism into a play that, at first view, is about a gay man coming out in a bastion of male achievement.

His dialogue is often pithy, satirical and riddled with acerbic wit.

Take Me Out turns from a bright, wordy comedy to a darker shade in the second half. The problem is we are never emotionally connected to the characters. The words get in the way.

Characters are two-dimensional: the African-American made good, the intellectual WASP, the dumb southerner, a couple of argumentative Hispanics and an aggressive Japanese.

The style of the jokes, the use of a narrator, the New York location, even the construction of the play is reminiscent of Neil Simon. The play has a very conventional structure with no real surprises.

Kate Cherry's direction is slick and well paced, keeping the sharp dialogue firing and physical images engaging..

Richard Roberts stylish set is exceptional, with a locker room complete with real showers for lots with scenes of naked men..

Ransom is charming, relaxed and credible as Darren and Bishop maintains the ironic voice of the writer as the narrator.

Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor is the stand out. He totally inhabits the role of Shane Mungitt.  the simple-minded stuttering hick who pitches like a demon.

Simon Burke makes a meal of the camp financial manager with a newly discovered penchant for ball games and ball players.

Cherry's production is energetic and makes this rather wordy play look very good.

LOOK FOR: Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor's outburst after his fateful pitch.

By Kate Herbert

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