Take Me Out Theatre Review - Celebration Theatre Knocks it Out of The Park with Another Must-See Production

                                 

Darren Lemming (Ary Katz) is a superstar. The star centerfielder for the New York Empires, Darren is handsome, charismatic and a gifted athlete. Recognizing that he is indeed revered by man and beast alike, Darren uses his deity status to reveal his sexual orientation. The revelation sends a shockwave through the world of professional baseball and begins a chain of events that will change his life and the lives of those closest to him, forever.

First, the announcement would throw the team into a psycho-sexual tizzy that team short-stop Kippy Sunderstrom (Tom Costello) spends full-time trying to explain and abate into normality. As one of the narrators of the play, Kippy is the peacemaker and a most fierce advocate for everyone. Next, the mighty Empires find themselves on a sudden and inexplicable losing streak. When pitcher Takeshi Kawabata (Eiji Inoue) loses his ability to close, management enlists the help of one Shane Mungitt (Garrett Matheson), a socially remote, but steely effective relief pitcher from the minor league. Finally, Darren’s announcement coincides with the promotion of Mason “Marz” Marzac (Thomas James O’Leary), a clever accountant who inherited the responsibility of managing Darren’s finances.

For a short while, things seem to be back on track. The whole gay hub-bub has settled down around Darren. Thanks to Mungitt, The Empires are winning again. Instead of the new powerful, vocal gay rights advocate that he expected to find, through Darren, Marz has begun a brand new, intoxicating love affair – with the world of baseball. Then following a big win one night, it happens: Mungitt speaks. What he expresses with complete candor is actually ineloquent, racially offensive and includes referring to the great Darren Lemming by a very nasty three letter word.

The sacred realm of baseball is shook. Someone has finally penetrated the armor of the unflappable Darren Lemming. The public that once showered him with respect and adoration now suffocates him with their unwanted sympathies and moral support. Mungitt is suspended indefinitely. However, because of an apologetic heartfelt letter produced by Mungitt, coupled with the fact that The Empires have begun a new losing streak, the indefinite nature of Mungitt’s suspension seems to definitely be coming to an end.

Lemming does not want Mungitt to return to the team; but the owners have spoken.

The cast of "Take Me Out" at the Celebration Theatre in Hollywood

Take Me Out marks the first time that Celebration Theatre bring us a production “in the round,” with audience on all four sides of a raised stage, painted Astro-turf green. Celebration has always been great at balancing the reality of a small space with making use of every possible inch of performance space and this latest production is no different. In fact, in my opinion, this particular production realizes the full potential and versatility of the 64-seat space.

Kurt Boetcher’s production design is great. Floodlights and foliage places the audience literally in the playing field. The clubhouse lockers line one wall while center stage is constantly transformed into night club, to business offices, to showers. Veronica J. Lancaster, in concert with Tim Swiss, creates an exciting palette of sound and light that is both judicious and evocative. I feel like costume design deserves a nod as well. I knew exactly who these characters were the moment I saw them, before they even spoke. E.B. Brooks’ costume design did that. All elements of this production are clean, precise, deliberate, measured and executed with utter refinement. Well Done.

The ensemble of actors in this production is terrific. It is difficult to point to one character as the lead because the point of view flowed between so many voices and because the performances - solo and collectively - are all quite good. Ary Katz’s Darren Lemming is a demi-god that finds himself on an uncontrolled descent from omnipotence to mortality. Watching that façade of power and indifference wither away is truly engaging. We experience through Tom Costello’s Kippy how the best of intentions truly can have hellish, unintended consequences. He is confounded by the unpredictability of human nature over the safety of reason; we can see he’s changed forever. Garrett Matheson gives a truly haunting performance as the severely ignorant, borderline sociopath, Shane Mungitt. His is a character that easily ignites the fiery debate over nature versus nurture. Jacques C. Smith, Biff Yeager, Eiji Inoue, Duke Dloughy and Rick Cosnett all play key notes in this production, deftly infusing this show with humor, humanity and heart.

Thomas James O’Leary (l.) and Ary Katz (r.) in Take Me Out at Celebration Theatre

Thomas James O’Leary’s portrayal of unadventurous business manager, turned newly indoctrinated, baseball-fanatic Mason Marzac, is exquisitely rich and remarkably effortless. The child-like wonder of discovery, the complete bliss of new infatuation and the steadiness of honesty and wisdom are all expertly exalted in O’Leary’s performance. Truly well done. Just… wow!

This production of Take Me Out is truly outstanding. Three acts will fly by in Richard Greenberg’s intense and complex tale of power, identity and rituals. In a play that feels like equal parts monologues and scenes, director Michael Matthews orchestrates a wonderfully paced tapestry of performances with virtually seamless transitions. This director is not afraid of letting performances breathe, which in turn allows the audience to truly participate in the drama unfolding before them organically. This show is thick with the raw energy of live theatre, welded by the hands of extremely talented actors.

This show I can happily give a standing ovation. Don’t miss it!

Take Me Out is currently running through November 21, 2010 @:

Celebration Theatre
7051 Santa Monica Blvd
(one block east of La Brea)
Hollywood, CA  90038

For more information: (323) 957-1884

(Show contains nudity, profanity, water based smoke, strobe light)

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Calas

http://www.celebrationtheatre.com/

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