Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Royale
It is hard to describe The Studio@620's role in the community. Theirs is an open space with not particularly comfortable chairs on risers, probably best used for smaller, simpler productions, like solo or cabaret shows. Therefore, the play at hand must have been a challenge, budget wise, so it is wonderful to report that the production requires little indulgence from its audiences. The acting is quite strong across the board, and the technical elements are sufficient to get the job done well.
I am impressed by how physically right for their parts all of the actors are. The script is specific regarding race and ethnicity for many of the characters and director Jones has been able to meet the demands. Phillip Rankin is superstar baseball player Darren Lemming, whose coming out of the closet triggers the action of the story. Rankin gives a solid performance, hitting all the bases (pun very much intended) of the role's emotions. Drew Smith is Kippy Sunderstrom, Darren's buddy on the team, the play's narrator, and sort of the moral center. He gives a straightforward all-American reading of the part, sunny-Midwestern, heterosexual. Chris Rutherford portrays Darren's business manager Mason Marzac, half in and half out of the closet. He best captures the slightly fey quality, often attached to newly minted gay men. This is a fine mostly comic performance.
Amadeus Dameron plays Shane Mungitt, recently arrived from Triple-A and, because of a tough childhood, lacking in filters. His is another in a stage full of fine performances. Sheldon Gamabon plays Takeshi Kawabata, an Asian pitcher. He is focused and mesmerizing in a third act monologue.
Bob Devin Jones does an admirable job directing a large-scale play. As noted above, he gets fine performances from his cast. Still, there are a couple of issues. I think that part of the lack of focus during the first act may be partly his fault. The facility is not all that acoustically kind, and it was very hard to hear clearly in the first act. Things improved considerably during the final two acts. Un-credited scenic design requires a shower area and lockers for a locker room setting. The showers are functional, but lockers are suggested rather than shown. Other scenes are set using minimal cubes of various sizes. Costumes, also not credited, belie the budget constraints with uniforms that have a team logo and player names as well as streetwear that suggests a more northern climate. Lighting by Tyler Weiss (who also did the sound design) is effective, considering the facility does not have anything resembling a full lighting panel.
Had I been able to get to this earlier, before closing day, I would have recommended that gay men and theaterlovers from around the area rush to see this fine production. I am glad that I have finally gotten to see this play, especially in a production as well acted as this one.
Take Me Out, through October 1, 2017, at The Studio @620, 620 1st Avenue South, St Petersburg, FL 33701. For more information call 727-895-6620 or visit www.thestudioat620.org.
Cast: Darren Lemming: Phillip Rankin