In theatre, timing is everything, and it's too bad New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza couldn't hold off a couple months before making the bizarre May 21 admission to a gaggle of reporters that he was heterosexual, after a New York tabloid speculated a Mets star was gay.
If he had said so around August, the press coverage of his reverse coming-out would have dovetailed nicely with The Public Theater's world-premiere co-production of Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg's play about a famous baseball player holding a press conference and telling the world he's gay. Previews begin Aug. 23.
According to the Donmar Warehouse website, the following dialogue may sum up the new work: "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, Kippy? I'd rather just play ball."
In the play, "Darren Leeming is a young iconic baseball star, living life large, male as can be, envied by everyone. He calls a press conference and, without telling anyone what he is about to do, he comes out to the waiting media." The play, about sports, race, and sexual politics, "chronicles the fall-out as the ripples of his actions spread through the team, the media and across the nation."
Performances of the co-production with London's Donmar Warehouse begin at The Public's Anspacher Theater Aug. 23, following a summer run in London, June 20-Aug. 3. Rehearsals began the week of May 13 in Manhattan prior to the London debut. Take Me Out will be the first Public Theater show of the 2002-2003 season. Official opening for the play is Sept. 5. Joe Mantello directs a cast that includes Kevin Carroll (45 Seconds From Broadway, Angels in America), Dominic Fumusa (Tape and [sic]), Gene Gabriel, Neal Huff (The Public's Tempest and Troilus and Cressida), Robert M. Jimenez (The Public's Richard II, Marisol, Othello), Stephen Mendillo (Broadway's Wild Honey, Orpheus Descending, A View from the Bridge), Denis O'Hare (Cabaret, Ten Unknowns), Kohl Sudduth, Daniel Sunjata (a Lincoln Center Twelfth Night and Williamstown Theatre vet, playing the ballplayer who outs himself), Frederick Weller (The Shape of Things) and James Yaegashi (an Alabama Shakespeare Festival vet).
The Donmar staged the acclaimed UK premiere of Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, considered his masterpiece. Greenberg's plays include The Dazzle, plus Eastern Standard, Everett Beekin, Night and Her Stars and Hurrah at Last.
Tickets are $45 and go on sale in mid-August at The Public Theater box office, 425 Lafayette Street; on-line at www.publictheater.org; and via phone at (212) 239-6200.
— By Kenneth Jones