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Theater review: 'Take Me Out' at Celebration Theatre

September 30, 2010 |  6:00 pm

TakeMeOut When “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s love letter to baseball, ran on Broadway, it won the 2003 Tony Award but provoked some flap about its liberal use of male nudity.
 
Subsequent productions have had to decide whether or not to go the full monty. Michael Matthews’ spirited revival at Celebration Theatre doesn’t hold back. The cozy space is set up like a minuscule baseball stadium — one where the spectators risk getting thwacked by the towels the players keep shedding.
 
The play tells the story of Darren Lemming (Ary Katz), a mixed-race center fielder for the Empires, who abruptly comes out of the closet at the peak of his stardom. Katz, an actor with the physique of a championship trophy, makes Darren’s belief that his godlike status won’t be affected seem realistic rather than arrogant.
 
The ensuing tragedy, if not entirely credible, resonates with our attitudes about race, celebrity, identity and sexuality, perhaps even more strongly today in the wake of the backlash against President Obama and the Tiger Woods scandal. But what elevates “Take Me Out” above topical melodrama is the character of Mason Marzak (Thomas James O’Leary), Darren’s nebbishy gay business manager.
 
A transparent stand-in for the playwright, Mason discovers in baseball not only “a metaphor for hope in a Democratic society,” but also the first community where he has ever belonged. O’Leary plays him as a wiggly neurotic whose enthusiasm keeps bursting through his endearing timidity.
 
In real life, a character this delightful would get his own talk show (or a Tony Award), but here Mason’s solitude seems metaphorical: the loneliness of the hyper-articulate. His passion for baseball has a religious fervor, and his final tender moment with Darren under the stadium lights, affectingly handled in this good-humored and enjoyable production, suggests that gods may prefer the company of misfits because they don’t really fit in, either.

-- Margaret Gray

"Take Me Out." Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 31. $30. (323) 957-1884. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Photo: Jacques C. Smith, left, and Ary Katz in "Take Me Out." Credit: Michael Calas.

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