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Theater review: 'Cobb' at the Lonny Chapman Theatre

March 1, 2012 |  2:00 pm


Ty Cobb still holds some of the records he set while playing for the Detroit Tigers (1905-26), including an unofficial one: “the dirtiest player of all time.” His talent for stealing bases owed a lot to his habit of sharpening his spikes in the dugout, in full view of anybody who might come between him and home plate. Proudly racist, he once beat up a heckling fan for suggesting (in far cruder terms) that he had a black parent. 

Yet the three Ty Cobbs in the Group Rep’s revival of Lee Blessing’s “Cobb” are charming hosts. Kent Butler is the retired “Mr. Cobb”; Daniel Sykes plays the brash rookie the press dubbed “the Georgia Peach”; and Bert Emmett is mid-career player “Ty.” Together in the afterlife, they look back on their career from three distinct perspectives, which are sometimes in tune and other times fascinatingly discordant. Blessing uses this device to reflect on how character changes over time, and the actors’ talent and Gregg T. Daniel’s warm, persuasive direction ensure that the Cobbs’ interactions feel not merely symbolic but touchingly real. 

Cobb was mostly his own enemy, but Blessing has also given him two foils: the beloved home-run machine Babe Ruth, shown here only in photos, a kind of Mozart to Cobb’s Salieri; and a lesser-known hall-of-famer named Oscar Charleston (Jason Delane), known as “the black Cobb.” Charleston has been assigned to haunt the Cobbs in the afterlife, reminding them of the racial injustice of their time. This seems like a bad deal for Charleston. Why did he end up the heavy in somebody else’s eternity?

I was probably meant to see the three Cobbs' destiny as the more unpleasant, but they were so entertaining that I left with the impression that purgatory won't be so bad if I can relive my triumphs, nurse my regrets, laugh at my jokes, roll my eyes at my foibles and throw a ball around with two other me's. 


More theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Kid Rock to show support for Detroit Symphony

--Margaret Gray

“Cobb.” Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. In repertory. Ends April 7.  $15-$22. (818) 763-5990. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. 

Photo: Kent Butler, Daniel Sykes and Bert Emmett as the three Ty Cobbs in the Group Rep's "Cobb." Credit: Sherry Netherland