Actor and first-time producer Tim Garner’s eponymous theatre company is the newest kid on the Singapore theatre block and he’s chosen Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out as his company’s debut offering. The production will run at the Alliance Francaise from the 18th to 31st of January 2014.
Take Me Out explores the tale of a star centre fielder, Darren Lemming (Juan Jackson), who decides to come out to the world as homosexual. His teammates and friends take the news in different ways. One teammate in particular, Shane Mungitt (Chris Bucko), speaks to the media and an unfiltered and insulting word he uses to describe Lemming’s sexuality sends the story into deeper and darker waters in the second act.
Despite the play winning the Tony award in 2003 for Best Play, the writing is a bit problematic. It is of course ten years later and being gay in 2014 isn’t as shocking as it once was, but Greenberg treats the issue rather simplistically, without putting enough gravitas into the dialogue, especially because 10 years ago (when this takes place), this theme would’ve been more topical than now.
Greenberg also isn’t consistent in his character development. Mungit for example isn’t explored as much as he should be, especially given that the character is a catalyst for the story’s direction. Also a lot of questions regarding Mungit’s actions aren’t clearly explained and neither are several other questions regarding a couple of other minor characters. Even Lemming’s grandiose and narcissistic attitude, that he’s God, isn’t delved into properly.
Having said that, Take Me Out is entertaining because of the level of acting by Bucko, who steals the show with his country bumpkin Mungitt, and Hayden Tee who plays Lemming’s accountant. Bucko loses himself so completely in his role that watching him on stage is a complete treat for the audience as we see Mungit expose himself emotionally to the hilt. Vacillating between innocence and guilt, Bucko uses his wide acting range superbly and manages to make Mungitt seem very real and multi-dimensional to the audience, despite Greenberg’s limited character development on the page. That’s surely the mark of a talented thespian – when he can go over and beyond the troubling script.
Tee on the other hand delivers his comic lines with such good timing and a saucy Long Island accent, his Mason Marzac is simply a delight to watch. Most surprisingly, Tee isn’t even American (he’s a Kiwi) but he holds up the accent perfectly the entire time and gives an outstanding and memorable comedic performance.
However, Jackson’s performance in the leading role is a bit underwhelming in the quieter parts of the play, as this American actor has rather limited expressions, and when Lemming is in a fit of anger, Jackson tends to scream without restraint, which comes across as contrived and unnatural.
The set by Eucien Chia is mesmerizing as locker room showers turn into a baseball field, and the direction by Paul Lucas (who takes on double duty playing one of the minor roles as well) takes full advantage of Chia’s set to efficiently present us with this multi-character, multi-viewpoint story.
Lastly, this production has all the baseball players nude in the locker room scenes, and the nudity isn’t gratuitous and has a part in the plot. However, whilst it’s integral to the story, nobody is going to fault anyone for enjoying their eye candy (candies!) either. So go ahead and catch this production before the month is up as rarely are there plays that put a man on display – both physically, and emotionally.