Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out has been wrongfully pigeonholed as "the gay baseball play." Although baseball is the central metaphor and the play opens with biracial superstar Darren Lemming's surprise coming-out speech, Take Me Out is a thorough exploration of the tragic flaws in our national character and an unflinching deconstruction of the melting-pot mythos reminiscent of Arthur Miller at the top of his game. Over the course of the evening we get to see nearly the entire cast naked, physically and emotionally. We are also treated to bigotry in all of its raw glory as a reciprocal, self-sustaining trait hardly exclusive to the John Rockers of the world.
Playhouse heavy-hitter Jonathon Lamer charms and endears as Kippy, the brightest bulb in the major leagues and the audience's native guide into a team sport where many players don't even speak the same language. Under the capable direction of Dave Landis, the rest of the cast match Lamer's high benchmark, with Dennis Whitehead and Mark Mozingo standing out as the conflicted Lemming and Shane Mungitt, a racist redneck with one helluva fastball. In an uncharacteristic portrayal, Mungitt is cast as society's victim, while Lemming is less than sympathetic throughout.
The play follows the New York Empires through a turbulent season that ends with a World Series championship, but it's hardly made in the feel-good mold of a Rocky movie. All good feelings are tempered with tragedy and laced with a hard lesson: Those who are born with advantages are seldom grateful, and many who struggle to achieve greatness aren't necessarily heroes.
To dismiss Take Me Out as "the gay baseball play" is to miss the point entirely. From the opening strains of the Star Spangled Banner to the tenuous hope established in the closing scene, Take Me Out is a warts-and-all portrait of a nation, not its pastime.
At Playhouse on the Square through April 15th
For the camp musical Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, Circuit Playhouse has been fabulously transformed into a seedy intergalactic cabaret. The bulk of the audience sit at tables rather than in theater seats and sip on intoxicating libations throughout the performance. The libations, no doubt, help.
It's not that Saucy Jack -- a transgendered glam-and-disco-infused murder mystery -- isn't good fun; it is. But it's too derivative and pays constant homage to much better shows, especially the magnificent Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the granddaddy of horror-tinged camp musicals, The Rocky Horror Show. Saucy Jack's narrator, Willy von Whackhoff, is clearly a carbon copy of Rocky Horror's criminologist, and he ends the show with a heartfelt request to the audience that functions as a less melodic answer to Rocky Horror's famous benediction, "Don't Dream It, Be It."
Visiting artist Keith Patrick McCoy makes Saucy Jack into a seething, shirtless cauldron of wicked libidinousness, and Mary Hollis Inboden is an earthy pleasure as the tough-talking smuggler Chesty Prospects. Sean Lyttle exudes clueless charm as the unlikely ingenue Sammy Sacks, and his dippy sweetness is perfectly matched by Michael Crea as Booby Shevalle, a cross-dressed variation on the abused Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.
The Space Vixens, played by Rachael Saltzman, Megan Bowers, and Megan Keach, are glam angels who wield futuristic hairdryers capable of turning bad guys into smoke. Their theme song, "Glitter Boots Saved My Life," is easily the show's high point, and in a musical short on memorable tunes, the reprises make for welcome repetition.
Anyone looking to have an evening of perfectly foolish fun could do much worse than Saucy Jack, which, under the guiding hand of director and camp aficionado Scott Ferguson, is a grin-inducing romp from start to finish. It's easy to revel in the futuristic visuals, bop along to the disco beat, and after a few drinks, the script only seems mildly dreadful. Be advised.
At Circuit Playhouse through April 2nd