I thought this was just a play about a baseball player coming out of the closet. Oh, boy, was I wrong.
One of the things I am determined to do while in New York is to see things that I couldn’t possibly see in Cincinnati. “Take Me Out” fits that bill (though I have since learned that it HAS been produced locally both professionally and in a community theater.) Still, I am doubtful that I’ll ever see Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Cabin in the Woods,” “The Butler,”) or Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) on stage in Cincy in such an intimate venue. So, I bought an aisle seat for this play only knowing the basic premise (“baseball star comes out and his teammates don’t like it.”). Little did I know that it also had gasp-worthy twists, outrageous comedy mixed with intense tragedy, or that it would be this good.
First, a word about Broadway theatres and their seats: they are not made for people of my dimensions. We’re fortunate in Cincinnati that most of the theatre seats are fluffy-friendly. I’m 6’3 and . . .well . . . plus-sized. It’s fair to blame my width for needing to sit on the aisle, but tonight it was definitely about my height. The poor men sitting next to me and in front of me were so patient as I adjusted, scooted, and knee-knocked their chairs throughout the show. I honestly thought about leaving at intermission because I was so uncomfortable. But then the lights down into the break left me breathless – and I wasn’t going anywhere.
The play starts out well enough. But it picks up the pace and steamrolls you through Act 2. It had surprises I never saw coming, characters that I didn’t expect to be so well-drawn, and some excellent acting. Jesse Williams plays “Darren Lemming,” a major league baseball superstar. Jesse Tyler Ferguson plays his financial advisor. They are both – as you would expect – outstanding, especially Ferguson. But the rest of the cast, especially our narrator, “Kippy” (Patrick Adams, who played “Mike Ross” in the long time USA Network drama “Suits” and who makes his Broadway debut here) and “Shane Mingutt” (Michael Oberholtzer) cement this ensemble as one of the finest I’ve seen on stage.
Typically, I’m not a fan of 4th wall breaking, especially on stage. I’d rather peer in voyeuristically to conversations and actions (and there’s plenty of that here, quite literally with multiple shower scenes that leave nothing to the imagination) than have someone tell me about what’s going on. But playwright Richard Greenberg masterfully uses the device to move the story along and perhaps mislead us – just a little – as we learn about the “mess” that was this baseball season.
All the technical elements are of the quality one would expect in a Broadway production. I was incredibly impressed with how the sound and lighting effects complimented one another to help us establish time and place. The direction is spot on, lulling us early into thinking this story is going one direction – and it takes several turns that literally had people in the audience audibly responding. And it’s paced remarkably well, too, as the moments that matter really do count.
I do not regret choosing this as the first show of my NYC trip this year!
If you go: be advised that you are required to lock your cell phone in a soft pouch, which was efficiently unlocked at the end of the show without any delays. You can also unlock it and use it at intermission – but only if you go outside the building. There is full-frontal male nudity, but it did not feel gratuitous or unnecessary to the plot – but your fellow patrons may not be as sophisticated as you and I, and don’t be surprised by some uncomfortable laughter, muttering, or even a gasp or two. Also, from what I could tell, there’s not a bad seat on the floor; you’d have to ask my dear friend Logan Kovach (and brilliant actor in his own right) about the Mezzanine seats. It truly is a small world . . . neither of us had any idea the other would be here tonight!
Take Me Out runs at the Hayes Theatre on 44th Street in NYC through June 11th. Tickets and more can be found here.