Reviewed by Dale Reynolds for www.latinheat.com
Los Angeles is known to be the world’s capitol for play production: over a thousand plays a year are produced here, most of them, sorry to say, in the mediocre to bad category. And, unhappily, this latest production of Richard Greenberg’s 2003 award-winning drama about a famous baseball player’s coming out publicly as a gay man and impact it has on his team, fans and close friends. It was a relatively courageous play during its first outing (no pun intended) and hasn’t dated much in the intervening years.
A small “black-box” 35-seater theatre in North Hollywood, the Sky Lounge has produced a totally inadequate production, which appeared under-rehearsed and, God knows, under-thought-through. As directed by Kenne Guillory, the tiny space just can’t hold as many actors as the play calls for. In the crucial shower scenes, half the actors were seemingly embarrassed, twisting and turning to hide themselves, leaving the audience to wonder why they took the job in the first place. It’s personal, but if one is not able to commit to the needs of the production, best not to take it on.
The actors are not bad, as such, but they’ve not been directed to make the most of the plot situations in the various scenes. For instance, the important moment when the lead, Darren Lemming (Sean Cameron-Young), the bi-racial baseball player who doesn’t think his public coming out as a gay man will end up having the tragic impact it eventually will have, and his best friend, Kippy Sunderstrum (Dex Matthews), were so quiet and tuned into each other that we couldn’t hear. The same resulted with the Southern bigot, Shane Mungitt (Jeremy Parise) who made the unsustainable choice of mumbling, so that half his dialogue had to be guessed at.
The other leads were certainly competent (Adrian Scott, Jr., was excellent as Davey, Lemming’s closest friend who plays for the another team). Smaller roles were played with relish by Jesus Rodriguez, Kenyatta DeEtt, Patrick Hilt as a gay fan, and Marquis Sims, who played the Japanese player, Takeshi and handled the needs of the character well.
The end result being, that what seems to have been rushed was the rehearsal process. It most certainly was not the performance I saw, which came in at two-and-three-quarter hours (two intermissions) – an eternity – to finish. Technically, it was incompetent, with late cues and missed light and sound-cues.
This is a provocative play, needing finessing, not blunder-bussing. If you already know the play, there is no reason to see this version; if not, you’d be better off reading it.
At the Sky Lounge Theatre, 4930 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91201. Tickets: 800.838.3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/236234.