The timing couldn’t be better for a theater production like “Take Me Out. ”
Plays and Players presents the Tony Award-winning production about what happens when a superstar baseball player comes out to his team, his friends and the public, through March 27.
“The Philadelphia theater trend this year [is] a huge grouping of sports-oriented and themed productions,” said out actor Bill Egan about the play. “I think it’s a connection that we have to different audiences who might not come to the theater. There was the wrestling-based play that InterAct did [‘The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity’]. Obviously, we picked spring. The Phillies are having their first pre-season games. Thank God the weather is turning for us. It’s all good timing.”
Egan plays Christopher “Kippy” Sunderstorm, a seasoned player on the team who supports slugger Darren Lemming — who also happens to be biracial — after he comes out.
“He’s the senior member of the team,” Egan said of his character. “A lot of guys come and go. He’s kind of like the mom of the team. He makes sure he knows everyone and learns a little bit of their language. He tries to get along with everyone and bring peace. He’s a little bit surprised at first [when Darren comes out]. He’s immediately pretty open. He can’t wait to meet [Darren’s] guy and have him over with his family so they can all have dinner.”
Of course there are players who react negatively to the idea of having a gay teammate. In addition to homophobia, the play explores issues of racism and classism in the sport. Very few major-league baseball players have ever come out to the public, making the production a convincing exploration of how life for an out player could unfold. (To date, there are two players who have come out: Billy Bean and the late Glenn Burke.)
“There are still no, by any stretch of the imagination, superstar baseball players that have come out, let alone average players that are openly gay,” Egan said.
“If the same thing would happen today, it would have the same kind of effect. Those issues still aren’t resolved.”
As negative and positive reactions from those around him unfold on and off the field, Lemming’s performance as a player gets better. Egan said this plot development will hopefully be a source of discussion for the viewers.
“When he comes out, the league doesn’t do anything. By contrast, his playing excels even more for one reason or another. Is he trying to rise above because he’s trying to put down anything that might be perceived as negative, or is it because he put that out there and is not hiding anymore? He’s just totally focused on who he is and what he wants to do. It really does spark those conversations. There’s got to be other superstar athletes who still might not have that opportunity to come out for whatever reason.”
“Take Me Out” runs through March 27 at 1714 Delancey Place. For more information, visit www.playsandplayers.org or call (215) 735-0630.