A Season Crowded With Incident: Take Me Out Opens on Bway Feb. 27

News   A Season Crowded With Incident: Take Me Out Opens on Bway Feb. 27 Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg's new play about America's favorite pasttime, steps up to the Broadway plate for a Feb. 27 opening following previews from Feb. 4.
Daniel Sunjata as Darren Lemming in Take Me Out
Daniel Sunjata as Darren Lemming in Take Me Out (Photo by Mark Douet)

The audience-favorite serious comedy about baseball — and, along the way, about ego, racism, homophobia, friendship, celebrity and America — was first seen in a co production arrangement at London's Donmar Warehouse and then The Public Theater Off-Broadway in summer and then fall 2002.

At Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, Joe Mantello (who already has Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune on Broadway) again directs his London and Off Broadway cast, which includes Kevin Carroll (45 Seconds From Broadway, Angels in America), Gene Gabriel (I'm OK, You're OK, Making Scenes), Neal Huff (The Public's Tempest and Troilus and Cressida), Robert M. Jimenez (The Public's Richard II, Marisol, Othello), Joe Lisi (Lt. Swersky on NBC's "Third Watch"), Denis O'Hare (Cabaret, Ten Unknowns), Kohl Sudduth (Greeks & Centaurs for WPP), Daniel Sunjata (a vet of Lincoln Center's Twelfth Night and Williamstown Theatre), Frederick Weller (The Shape of Things) and James Yaegashi (an Alabama Shakespeare Festival vet). David Eigenberg, the actor who plays Miranda's boyfriend, Steve, on TV's "Sex and the City," is the only newcomer to the cast. He'll play ballplayer Toddy Koovitz, a role originated by Dominic Fumusa.

All but O'Hare play macho teammates in a Yankees-like ball club that is rocked when the star player, Darren Lemming, played by Sunjata, comes out of the closet in an incident-packed season. Some see the play as a meditation on male friendships and how business and personal issues color those relationships.

The play is somewhat revised for Broadway. The playwright said the script sports significant revisions, including the change from three acts to two. Greenberg told Playbill On-Line that he had been making cuts to the play since it began its Off-Broadway run late in summer 2002. "It is already shorter than is was opening night," he said in recent months, "by about six or seven minutes. There are all sorts of approaches to [cutting]."

Take Me Out's marketing campaign is also different: The ads and Playbill cover no longer show a uniform-clad torso with the word "Empires" (the name of the team) on it. It has been replaced by a wide shot of all but one of the players with their backs to the camera, in the distance. Green is the dominant color, as in the color of the ball field. *

Take Me Out played an extended run at The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival's three quarter Anspacher space Aug. 23-Nov. 24, 2002, following a summer run in London. Fall tickets to the world premiere co-production by the Public and the Donmar were hard to get once news spread about the show's content, which intrigued multiple demographics: A star ballplayer comes out of the closet at a press conference in a season packed with racial tension, violence and celebrity ego. Did we mention the apparent murder in Act Two? The nude shower scenes? The idea of baseball as a metaphor for America?

Carole Shorenstein Hays partners with Frederick DeMann to be the producing team for the Broadway run of Take Me Out. Hays produced the Pulitzer Prize winning Topdog/Underdog, and The Goat as well as the long-running productions of Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife on Broadway, among many other works. She co-owns the Curran, the Golden Gate, and the Orpheum Theatres in San Francisco, and was previously announced as the sole producer of the Broadway stand of Take Me Out.

Brooklyn native and now Los Angeles resident DeMann recently partnered with Hays to co-produce Topdog/Underdog. The 35-year veteran in the entertainment business helped elevate Madonna and Michael Jackson to international stardom. He was also a producer of Proof. DeMann is in pre-production with HBO on a film based on the life of Peter Sellers starring Geoffrey Rush and directed by Stephen Hopkins.

The creative team's work, including Scott Pask's potent Astro-Turf-trimmed scenic design, will have to be modified for a proscenium house. Designers are Jess Goldstein (costume), Kevin Adams (lighting) and Janet Kalas (sound).

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In addition to the much-publicized nudity in the play's locker room scenes, crowds have been wowed by the play's view of baseball as democracy in microcosm, to say nothing of Greenberg's take on celebrity, homophobia, ego, prejudice, friendship and more. Pundits say the confluence of ideas in Take Me Out (the title has many meanings) makes it a likely candidate for the major prizes come spring (Greenberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Three Days of Rain).

The play's central event involves a superstar ball player telling the world he's gay and the ramifications of the disclosure, though the play reaches beyond that plot point. Observers have pointed out the incident is just that — incidental to the larger canvas.

The play was a hot prospect for commercial transfer since its first preview. It will be the third Public Theater production in a year to transfer to Broadway, following Elaine Stritch At Liberty and Topdog/Underdog.

Sanguine reviews and pre-opening newspaper articles about Take Me Out's sexual, racial and sports content — to say nothing of the male nude scenes — have fueled intense interest from sports fans and traditional theatregoers alike.

Greenberg has kept New York City supplied with a steady stream of plays lately, included Everett Beekin and The Dazzle, but Take Me Out looks to be his hottest property since Three Days of Rain became one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. He is also the author of Eastern Standard, Night and Her Stars and The Extra Man.

Greenberg — who was not, until recently, a sports fan — wrote the play after becoming suddenly obsessed with baseball one recent summer. A choice bit of dialogue from the work runs: "If I'm gonna have sex — and I am because I'm young and rich and famous and talented and handsome so it's a law — I'd rather do it with a guy, but, when all is said and done...I'd rather just play ball."

O'Hare steals scenes as a gay accountant who takes on Darren as a client and finds his world changed by the infinite possibilities and numerical elegance of the game, which, he points out, has no clock.

Take Me Out's playing schedule will be 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday, 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday, and 3 PM Sunday. Tickets ($20-$80) are available at (212) 239 6200. The Kerr is at 219 West 48th St.

(standing l-r) Gene Gabriel, Neal Huff, Kevin Carroll, Denis O
(standing l-r) Gene Gabriel, Neal Huff, Kevin Carroll, Denis O (Photo by Joan Marcus)