This is the longest run Sunjata has ever played on stage, and over time he's found the script to be full of texture and variety. Take Me Out, for which Sunjata is Tony-nommed for Best Featured Actor in a Play, started a year ago in London as a co-production between Donmar Warehouse and The Public Theater, then played Off-Broadway's Public before the current leap to Broadway's Walter Kerr.
Actors in long runs will tell you they learn new things about their characters and the play with each performance.
What is Take Me Out about? Sunjata said he hasn't made up his mind.
"I'm undecided about what it's most strongly about, and I think that's a tribute to Richard Greenberg's brilliance," Sunjata told Playbill On-Line. "Timeless pieces, whether they be works of music or plays, they're timeless because the issues or the emotions and ideas they provoke are universal. This play is so textured and layered: It's about the culture of celebrity, homophobia, friendship, racism. They're hot topics but we really don't talk about them all the time. I'm so happy to be associated with a piece that has so much to say about so many different things."
In the play, which was also a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Sunjata plays Darren Lemming, an egotistical star baseball player who comes out of the closet and upsets the balance of his Yankees-like ball club. Friendships (including his relationship with best friend, Kippy) are tested, and some (like that with his accountant, Mason, played by fellow Tony nominee Denis O'Hare) are tentatively formed. Is the play a rumination on the volatility and fragility of heterosexual male friendships?
"The way we're socialized in America pre-empts us from really connecting and displaying affection toward one another without it being misunderstood as something other that what it actually is," Sunjata mused. "Male friendships are something of an obstacle course, even if it's only on a subconscious level. But Richard's play brings it out to the conscious level."
Does Sunjata ever imagine what the characters do after the play is over?
"I do," he said. "I still, up to this day, haven't decided whether Darren and Kippy remain friends or if they never speak again. It's not anything that the audience can probably detect. Just about every other night I'm changing my mind about whether Darren is going to retire after the season or whether he'll come back and try again. There's a lot of loose ends that Richard leaves the audience. When you send people away from the theatre thinking, that's theatre being used at its best capacity."
Take Me Out is Tony-nominated for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play (Joe Mantello) and Best Featured Actor in a Play (O'Hare and Sunjata).