2nd Story's "Take Me Out" is a Grand Slam

Richard Greenberg’s Tony Award-winning play takes us inside the locker room of the fictional New York Empires as the major league baseball team confronts issues of racism and homophobia amongst the players.

Last season’s Red Sox drama was small peanuts and crackerjacks compared to the conflict that unfolds in 2nd Story Theatre’s production of “Take Me Out.” If you think our home team is troubled, go see this play, and you’ll feel a whole lot better by the time spring rolls around.

Richard Greenberg’s Tony Award-winning play takes us inside the locker room of the fictional New York Empires as the major league baseball team confronts issues of racism and homophobia amongst the players. When the team’s biracial star player Darren Lemming (Ara Boghigian) reveals that he’s gay, his teammates don’t know how to react.

Lemming has no reason to believe he’ll be treated any differently because he’s cocky and cool, and handsome to boot. He’s never had to deal with any hardship, so it comes as quite a surprise when most teammates ignore or mock him. One homophobic player later explains that he no longer feels comfortable being naked in the locker room, yet he parades his manliness around in front of his former friend in a vulgar, insulting way.

Audience members are taken on a voyeuristic ride inside some of the most private, vulnerable places where team camaraderie and conflict take shape, including the shower. Six working showerheads spray water onto the teammates as they stand on stage in the buff. Nothing is off limits. Characters are stripped down, and exposed for who they really are. You’ll see everything; you’ll hear everything, just as it would take place inside the showers. And after awhile, you’re okay with that. You look beyond the nakedness to see the real issues underneath.

“Take Me Out” has every element of entertainment; humor, drama, shock value and terror. There are some hilarious scenes where you can’t stop laughing, but the next act may contain content so dark and heavy, it’s disturbing.

When one player, Shane Mungitt (Jeff Church), makes racist and homophobic comments about his teammates to the media, all hell breaks loose. He’s suspended from games and ostracized by teammates, but when he returns after a break, things get much worse when Lemming takes the situation into his own hands. It is a single act that makes us realize Lemming is no better than the racists and homophobes who’ve harassed him. Mungitt loses his mind and his insanity is so realistic, it’s unnerving.

The story revolves around everything that happens outside of game time, but the heart of the matter is that baseball is one of the most passionate pastimes, and when it’s time to “play ball,” it brings us all together, no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It makes us forget about the drama. It makes us forget about our troubles. It makes us realize that things could be a whole lot worse than an incident involving fried chicken and beer.

"Take Me Out" runs Thursday to Sunday through February 19. Thurs. at 7 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m.

2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren, 247-4200, 2ndstorytheatre.com