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June 19, 2007

Pitching social issues ‘Out’ of the closet

Take Me Out: Pandora Productions tackles baseball and social issues in “Take Me Out.”‘Take Me Out’Starring Apollo Bacala, Brent Blood, Heyward Boyce, Hernando Castro, Oliver Coates, Brent Gettelfinger, Joseph Ian Hatfield, J. Daniel Herring, Aurion Johnson, Tim Kitchen and Nathaniel Niemeyer. Directed by Michael J. Drury. Written by Richard Greenberg. Performed by Pandora Productions. Continues June 21-24 at U of L’s Thrust Theatre, 2314 S. Floyd St. For tickets or more info, call 245-9676 or go to www.pandoraprods.org. Pandora Productions proclaims in its mission statement that it wants to “entertain, engage and inspire our audience, our community and the greater human community by presenting bold, cutting edge, unique and rarely seen theatrical pieces that speak to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.” The acting group liberates today’s social issues from the taboo box, giving the hope of understanding through the stage.“Take Me Out,” Pandora’s latest production, is about biracial baseball star Darren Lemming’s (Brent Gettelfinger) coming out to the world and the events that follow his impulsive decision. Richard Greenberg, who wrote the 2003 Tony-awarded play, penned a modern day Greek tragic hero’s downfall. Lemming’s hubris is his narcissistic attitude that nothing will go wrong because he is blessed with “god-like attributes.” Kippy Sunderstrom (Tim Kitchen), his best friend on the team, takes the role of the Greek bard by narrating the tragedy.The drama doesn’t just explore the issue of homosexuality, but also touches on racism and traditional masculine roles. After hillbilly pitcher Shane Mungitt (Joseph Ian Hatfield) is added to the team, catastrophe ensues when Mungitt spouts racial and homophobic slurs in a press conference, adding to the thick tension in the team’s locker room due to Lemming’s coming out.The highlight of the show is Hatfield’s portrayal of Mungitt. Although he is supposed to be the protagonist of the story, Hatfield embellishes his bigotry in a shroud of childlike innocence through a country twang and slow speech. The climax of the play comes in jail, with a confrontation between Sunderstrom, Lemming and Mungitt. Mungitt’s breakdown is hair-raising, as he is carted off screaming “I wanna throw!” over and over.Aurion Johnson and J. Daniel Herring, who play Davey Battle and Mason Marzac, respectively, also give great performances; Johnson broadcasts Battle’s Christian values in a spit-flying wrath as he confronts Lemming in the playhouse about his immorality; Herring slowly peels away Marzac’s fear of being himself as he progressively becomes obsessed with baseball, and his flamboyance blooms. Marzac says he finally shares a passion with a crowd — the baseball community.“Take Me Out” opened to a packed house Thursday night. Although the overall story was worthwhile and held my attention, at over two-and-a-half hours long, there was too much exposition from Sunderstrom and a rant linking baseball and democracy that was insightful but could have been left out. Letting the audience make up its own mind is better than telling them how to feel.One blemish was Michael J. Drury’s directorial decision to play stereotypical techno music when he introduces heterosexual Battle sipping a beer with Lemming — before his coming out. The play is also flowered with male nudity, just so you know. And because Thrust Theatre is right next to the train tracks, it was hard to hear some of the actors’ lines at times, which was a bummer.