PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 18-24: Triple Play

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 18-24: Triple Play There’s a maxim in Hollywood that baseball films are doomed to failure, that the sport’s status as “America’s Pastime” has never meant that people will pay money to pass time watching it played on celluloid. There is no such rule of thumb in the theatre, probably because there are so few plays written about the Boys of Summer. But perhaps some precept will be coined after this autumn, when the fates of a trio of baseball dramas—Take Me Out, Rounding Third and Nobody Don’t Like Yogi—can be accurately determined.

Yogi, a one-man show starring Ben Gazzara as the grammar mangling New York Yankees Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra, began previews Off Broadway Oct. 21, exactly two weeks after the opening of Richard Dresser's Rounding Third, a tale of Little League dads. Perhaps both were encouraged to cross the Hudson because of the good reception afforded Richard Greenberg’s Tony-winning Take Me Out. Certainly, Take Me Out was the first out of the dugout, opening Off Broadway in summer 2002 before transferring to Broadway in February.

For whatever reason, sports and theatre have never been natural bedfellows. Greenberg may in fact be the first true baseball fan to work in Times Square since Ethel Barrymore. There has been the odd athletic hit, such as That Championship Season and (stretching the definition here) Damn Yankees, but playwrights and actors tend to spend most of their time near the kitchen sink, in the drawing room or (thanks to Shakespeare) in unlocalized space. The great outdoors—the home of nearly every sporting event—have never had much appeal. Every the Broadway League—that annual Central Park baseball competition between Times Square casts—has always seemed to be populated by thespians who are keen to show themselves to be good sports, rather than sports who happen to be good actors.

Take Me Out can, on balance, be called a critical hit. Even a succès d’estime. The jury’s still out on whether it will be a commercial success. Ditto for Rounding Third and Yogi. Keep your eye on the box (office) score.

Retreat from Moscow, William Nicholson’s play about the disintegration of a 33-year marriage, opened on Broadway Oct. 23. John Lithgow and Eileen Atkins play parents to son Ben Chaplin. Nicholson's last visit to Broadway, Shadowlands in 1991, did fairly well for most concerned, especially star Nigel Hawthorne, who won a Tony.

Few titles scream surefire hit like Mary Poppins. Perhaps that is why two of theatres biggest octopuses—Disney Theatrical Productions and Cameron Mackintosh—ended up glomming on to the stage version of the classic film musical, based on the stories by P. L. (Pamela) Travers. The creative team was announced this week. Richard Eyre will direct, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne, and additional choreography by Stephen Mear. (So that’s two directors and two choreographers. One each from Disney and Mackintosh?) The production will open at the Prince Edward Theatre in London on December 15, 2004. Finally, Bob Balaban is stage’s own “reality theatre” director. Balaban brought Off-Broadway the long-running hit The Exonerated, the nonfiction play drawn from interviews of 40 former death row inmates who spent from two to 22 years in prison only to be later by found innocent and release. Now, he has returned with Addicted . . . a comedy of substance, to be presented at Off Broadway's Zipper Theatre beginning Nov. 7. The play is written and performed by Mark Lundholm, who talks about his odyssey through addiction, homelessness and rehab—and a successful stand-up comedy career.