HOUSTON -- "These men are bonded by athletic abilities but brought together through the values of friendship," observes local director Ed Muth about the baseball players in Bang the Drum Slowly.
Eric Simonson's stage adaptation of the Mark Harris novel and the 1973 movie (which starred a young Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty) receives its Southwest premiere at Theater LaB in Houston Feb. 25 - March 29. Set against America's pastime, baseball, in the 1950s, the poignant locker room drama is an elegy to the kinship that burgeons between two very different men united in athletic victoryand fatal defeat.
"The play explores relationships, how people can learn from each other and become close as a result of what they learn," Muth continues. "It ultimately says something uplifting about the humanity of man: that bad feelings can bring out the best in people." It hits a home run, says Muth, because an "okay team works together to get," in all senses of the word, "good."
A memory play, <>Bang the Drum Slowly<> cannot help but seem nostalgic today, Muth realizes, what with baseball having long since become big business. "But the game was and still is, or should be, about responsibility, loyalty, and allegiance to others and communities." Therefore, it should have resonance for current-day audiences.
Theater LaB's acting space is tiny: 18 x 24 square feet. Muth relishes the challenge of putting on a bigger play in a smaller place. "We have to establish trust, cooperate, rely on each other." These attributes, Muth points out, mirror the concerns of the text. Bang the Drum Slowly runs Feb. 25 - March 29 at Theater LaB in Houston. For tickets, $18, call (713) 868-7516
-- By Peter Szatmary