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Take Me Out

January 12, 2014
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TakeMeOut1(picture courtesy of Tim Garner Productions)

Event: “Take Me Out” by Tim Garner Productions
Venue: DBS Arts Centre & Alliance Francaise Theatre
Run: 8th – 16th Jan 2014 (DBS Arts Centre), 18th – 31st Jan 2014 (Alliance Francaise Theatre)

Batter Up!

On 8th January this year, news broke that former German international football player Thomas Hitzlsperger had revealed that he is gay, becoming the most high-profile soccer star to do so to date.

The timing of which was rather uncanny, considering it was also the opening night of “Take Me Out” by Tim Garner Productions, a 2003 Tony award winner for Best Play about a fictitious major league baseball star who comes out to the media, and how his decision affects the team throughout the course of the baseball season.

Sports stars, much less active ones, coming out to the media don’t exactly occur very often, and the most prominent recent example I can think of is that of NBA player Jason Collins, who currently plays center for the Washington Wizards.

There tends to be a considerable sense of machismo associated with professional team sports, especially in the four major sports in the US, which makes coming out all the more challenging, and it is this complexity which playwright Richard Greenberg attempts to tackle in the play.

Darren Lemming, played by Juan Jackson who looks every bit the authentic major league slugger with his incredible physique (think Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds in their primes), the undisputed star of the New York Empires, decides to come out to the media in the early part of the season, and this inevitably creates a stir, both outside of the clubhouse and within.

He initially thinks little of the situation and that the matter would easily blow over, but he is unprepared for the tumultuous season that lies ahead, mainly due to the adverse reception he receives from within the organisation itself.

His good buddy Kippy (played by Tim Garner) is his trusted companion and stabiliser throughout the season, although Darren faces callous teammates who show little understanding of his identity.

The biggest test comes in the form of the gifted but bigoted young redneck pitcher Shane Mungitt (played by Chris Bucko), who unwittingly pushes Darren to the brink, leading to near-disastrous consequences.

Juan Jackson plays Darren Lemming convincingly enough, thanks to his imposing physical presence, while Tim Garner does a great job as the trusty friend-in-need.

However, it is Hayden Tee, playing Darren’s business manager Mason Marzac, who steals the show in my book for his wonderfully entertaining portrayal of the bashful but bright accountant, who takes a huge interest in the superstar that is Darren Lemming.

The set design by Eucien Chia, consisting of four tiers resembling that of the concrete gallery seating section of an old-school stadium, together with movable sliding lockers, looks slightly curious at first, but as the play wears on, it is apparent that the entire set design is a clever one and works well for the play.

“Take Me Out” takes awhile to set things up and get going, especially in the first act, and you had to wonder where things were heading.

It seems like the first act could have been shortened, as it came across as being almost draggy at points, but things definitely pick up speed once the second act commences.

The other issue was that the characters were largely written as one dimensional (the writer even threw in the usual Hispanic players and even the token Japanese pitching ace in the ballclub), often being almost caricature-like with minimal depth.

And while the Mason character felt like a fully fleshed-out person, the others like the skipper, Davey Battle, Shane, and the rest of the teammates didn’t, and even for Darren himself – it didn’t feel like we were taken on a full enough exploration of his entire being and past experiences.

Lastly, there were severe technical difficulties with the lighting in the first act on the night I was there, and the detachable showers seemed a bit too much of a challenge for the actors to attach and detach, but I’m sure these kinks will be ironed out in due time.

Nonetheless, thanks to some spirited performances from a cohesive cast, this first production from Tim Garner Productions still scores a solid win, even if it doesn’t exactly hit it out of the ballpark.

It’s nice to see a new company like this bursting onto the scene, and we look forward to greater things to come.

Theatre fans rejoice, there’s a new kid in town.

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