The thin line between imagination and insanity is the focus of Baseball In Zanzibar, a new play by Ty Adams opening at Off-Broadway's Irish Arts Center, Oct. 17. A production of the Reckless Theatre Company, Baseball is directed by Frank Pisco.
Set in a small New Orleans mental health clinic, Baseball In Zanzibar studies an emotionally disturbed woman, her fellow patients and their battle for freedom and dignity under a nurse's care. Asked about the play's seeming similarities to "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," press representative Patrick Paris (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown) said he thought the tone here was lighter. Also, the character of the nurse is "basically good, and learning things about herself" (as opposed to Ken Kesey's brittle Nurse Ratched).
Cast in the show are Mark Bateman, Colleen Davenport, James Georgiades, Jack Gwaltney, Andrea Maulella and Steven McCloskey.
Author Ty Adams won the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center's Festival Of New Plays' Best Play Award for The Camel Shepards. Other works of his include The Gift Of The Spice People, Save Me, The Dark String and, of course, Brainless Idiot.
Director Frank Pisco is co-founder (with Wendell Laurent) of the Reckless Theatre Company, which was formed by members of the recently folded Circle Repertory. (The company name was inspired by Craig Lucas' Reckless, produced there September 1988 as part of the company's 20th anniversary season.) Baseball In Zanzibar is only one project on author Ty Adams' very full docket. He's currently on deadline for a taping of "Save Me," a radio play in noir mystery style, to be broadcast on NPR. He's also readying two one-acts for the Westbank Cafe: How To Roast A Pepper (a "trailer park play"), scheduled for Nov. 2, and Mooning Lon Chaney, a monologue that has yet to be cast, scheduled for Nov. 7. (Adams does have a wellspring of performers he can choose from since he's part of a pool of talent that evolved from the now-defunct Circle Repertory's Lab program).
Reached by phone on the morning of opening night, Ty Adams explained how he tailored his writing method to meet so many deadlines: "I intentionally overwrite. That way I don't have to be clever at the last minute, I can just cut and rewrite."
Adams did the brunt of writing on Zanzibar in November 1995 -- fifteen years after the events fictionalized in the play actually took place. "I was working in a psychiatric hospital in New Orleans, dealing with their out-patient program. And it was such a tragic story, I pushed it away from me. My therapist says I tend to do that with tragedies. But now I'm dealing with things more because it adds something to my writing. It's also very therapeutic -- it's not therapy, but it is therapeutic."
Baseball In Zanzibar is scheduled to run through Oct. 27. For tickets and information call (212) 388-8196.
-- By David Lefkowitz