Second Stage’s Broadway revival of ‘Take Me Out’ calls out homophobia and racism in baseball

When the mixed-race center fielder Darren Lemming, a seemingly unassailable superstar for the MLB Empires, nonchalantly reveals at a press conference that he’s gay, the unexpected news triggers hilarious reactions, increasing tension, and serious conflict in the locker room, in the media, and on the playing field, laying bare prejudice and hostility in the male world of America’s pastime, and threatening friendships, team spirit, and the hopes for another championship season.

Jesse Williams (center) and the cast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Now playing a limited Broadway engagement at the Helen Hayes Theater, the Second Stage Theater revival of Richard Greenberg’s 2003 Tony-winning Pulitzer Prize-nominated play Take Me Out, which was written at a time when no active MLB player had ever come out publicly, is told in the format of a go-back story, with lots of funny and fraught conversations, angry confrontations, and thought-provoking consequences for all the characters caught up in the “whole mess” of hatred and accountability within the context of the team sport they love.

Under Scott Ellis’s brilliant direction and compelling staging, the show, despite its very significant message, focuses on the hard-hitting laugh-out-loud sardonic humor of the distinctive personality types and their development, shifting from direct-address accounts of what happened to engaging re-enactments that combine flawless miming of the game action, razor-sharp reflections on the democratic ideals of baseball, and the metaphorical nakedness of the players, with the exposure of their raw emotions and beliefs.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse Williams. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The outstanding cast is led by Jesse Williams as the remote and superior Darren, devoted to the game at the expense of a personal life, smart and biting in his quips, then profoundly affected by the wake-up call of the unanticipated repercussions of his spoken truth. Patrick J. Adams is uproariously insightful, amusingly poetic, and naively empathetic in his observations as Kippy Sunderstrom, Darren’s teammate, friend, and the narrator of his story, who warns him early on that his honest revelation might not be well received.

Michael Oberholtzer captures all the ignorance, bigotry, and vitriol of his (unintentional?) antagonist Shane Mungitt, the new southern-born pitcher from a traumatic background, who heightens the drama with his shocking racial and sexual epithets and elicits sympathy with his hard-luck story – until he doesn’t. Brandon L. Dirden also plays a pivotal role as the devout Christian Davey Battle, an opposing player and Darren’s closest friend – until he isn’t. And Jesse Tyler Ferguson is a sidesplitting delight as Mason “Mars” Marzac, an effusive gay outsider who had no interest in baseball until Darren’s coming out, then becomes his gushing fan, personal go-to money manager, and an aficionado of the game, delivering riotous rhapsodies with his signature irrepressible scene-stealing effervescence.

Patrick J. Adams and Michael Oberholtzer. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Rounding out the all-male cast are Hiram Delgado, Ken Marks, Tyler Lansing Weaks, Julian Cihi, and Stephen Wattrus and Michael Castillejos (filling in, respectively, for Carl Lundstedt and Eduardo Ramos at the performance I attended), all convincing in their roles as ballplayers, supporters and detractors, “dimwits” and bibliophobes. Also contributing to the exceptional quality of the production is a top-notch realistic sound design by Bray Poor that transports us to the ballpark with its opening national anthem, cheering crowd, and resounding cracks of the bat, perfectly synchronized to the actors’ movements. David Rockwell provides an effective set design with efficient scene changes from the locker room and showers to the stadium, enhanced by Kenneth Posner’s lighting, and costumes by Linda Cho define the professions, personalities, and disparate social classes of the characters, both in and out of uniform.

While the central issues of homophobia and racism are far from a joke, Take Me Out hits it out of the park with its wry wit and incisive discernment that will have you laughing and keep you ruminating. That’s a big win for the team.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 25 minutes, including an intermission.

Take Me Out plays through Saturday, June 11, 2022, at Second Stage Theater, performing at the Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $79-199), call (212) 541-4516, or go online. Everyone must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the building and must wear a mask at all times when inside.

Please note: Take Me Out includes adult situations and full male nudity. Out of respect and support for the actors and to create a phone-free space, upon arrival at the Hayes, all phones will be placed in Yondr cases by the staff, returned to their owners (who maintain possession of their devices at all times), and will be unlocked upon exiting the theater at the end of the show.


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