He's Out: Take Me Out's Daniel Sunjata Will Retire His Empires Uniform Jan. 4, 2004

News   He's Out: Take Me Out's Daniel Sunjata Will Retire His Empires Uniform Jan. 4, 2004
Daniel Sunjata, the Tony Award-nominated actor playing the focus of controversy in Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, the 2003 Tony-winning Best Play, will leave the production Jan. 4, 2004, a spokesperson confirmed.

Daniel Sunjata
Daniel Sunjata

In a play that invites the audience to determine who exactly the lead character is — there are multiple stories and multiple points of view — Sunjata creates a confident, egotistical star ballplayer named Darren Lemming. When Lemming reveals to the press that he's gay, the fortunes of his Yankees-like major league team (the New York Empires) seem to fall apart.

Sunjata created the role at the Donmar Warehouse, where the world premiere was presented in 2002 in a co production with The Public Theater, which presented the U.S. premiere Off-Broadway in fall 2002.

Take Me Out transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre with most of its cast intact, under Joe Mantello's direction, and won 2003 Tonys for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Denis O'Hare, who plays Lemming's button-up gay accountant), Best Direction of a Play (Mantello) and Best Play. Sunjata and O'Hare were Tony nommed in the featured-actor category.

Variety reported that Sunjata will star in a TV series about New York firefighters working in the post-9/11 era.

* Sunjata previously told Playbill On-Line that Take Me Out was the longest run he has ever played on stage, and over time he's found the script to be full of texture and variety.

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? Around the time of the 2003 Tony Awards in spring, Sunjata said he hadn'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, friendships (including his relationship with best friend, Kippy) are tested, and some (like that with his accountant, Mason) 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."

Sunjata studied in the New York University graduate acting program.

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