Why ‘Take Me Out’ is the perfect play for theatre fans and sports fans alike
Spring means peak theatre season, with tons of new Broadway show openings. It also means the start of baseball season. It’s rare that the two have anything to do with each other. But if you’re waiting (im)patiently for Major League Baseball to finally start up on April 7, you might get your sports fix in an unlikely place: on Broadway, where Take Me Out has slid into its home base at the Hayes Theater.
Richard Greenberg’s play was a grand slam when it premiered in 2003, receiving critical acclaim in addition to multiple awards. The show’s about a fictional MLB center fielder, Darren Lemming of the New York Empires, who comes out as gay. Take Me Out speculates what would happen in the aftermath. Spoiler alert: It’s messy. Darren’s teammates’ reactions range from unwavering support to withering homophobia, showing the potentially ugly underbelly of a quintessential American pastime.
But don’t worry, Take Me Out won’t spoil the game for you. The dramatic fallout from Darren’s revelation, though unfortunate to watch, makes for suspenseful, intriguing theatre to rival any close baseball game. There are also plenty of moments that celebrate baseball’s importance to players and fans alike, including LGBT fans who can see themselves represented in the sport. Plus, the Take Me Out team has a formidable roster of actors — including Jesse Williams, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Patrick J. Adams, whose performances you won’t want to miss.
Baseball season goes through October, but Take Me Out is only on Broadway through June 11. Grab your teammates, your friends, and/or the biggest baseball fans you know, and take them out to Take Me Out. Here’s our pitch for why sports fans and theatre fans must catch this show.
Take Me Out is a groundbreaking, award-winning play.
The yearly Tony Award for Best Play is sort of like the World Series trophy: Just as the World Series trophy goes to the team that beat everyone else in the MLB, the Best Play prize goes to the show that triumphed over the rest of that season’s theatrical contenders in the Broadway “league.” In 2003, Richard Greenberg won that prize for Take Me Out, and the play was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, too.
Greenberg’s writing knocked it out of the park and won the prize, but his play would have been historic regardless. When the show premiered in 2003, no MLB player had ever publicly come out while actively playing. More athletes have come out since, but there are still no MLB athletes who have publicly come out while playing as of the 2022 revival, either. The only professional baseball player to do so is Bryan Ruby, a player in a Pacific Northwest league, and the only two MLB players to come out to the public did so after retiring.
This Take Me Out revival has a starry cast.
You won’t see any professional baseball players on stage (though you never know who might sit next to you in the audience), but Take Me Out brings together a bunch of all-stars from the acting world. Jesse Williams leads the Empires as Darren, but you might already know him as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. Playing his friend and teammate Kippy Sunderstrom is Patrick J. Adams, a Screen Actors Guild Award nominee for starring as Mike Ross in Suits.
The only actor that doesn’t play a baseballer or coach is Emmy nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who you might have seen as Mitch Pritchett in his 11 seasons on Modern Family. He plays Mason Marzac, Darren’s new business manager and a gay man who, after knowing nothing about sports for most of his life, quickly turns into a baseball fanatic upon meeting his new client and seeing his identity represented in the sport for the first time.
These three are the major players in the show, but the supporting team includes famous faces from stage and screen, too. For example, you might recognize Julian Cihi, who plays pitcher Takeshi Kawabata, from the hit Hulu series Only Murders in the Building. Or you might get déjà vu if you just saw Skeleton Crew on Broadway this winter, as Brandon J. Dirden, who plays Darren’s best friend and rival baseballer Davey Battle, just finished starring in that play.
You get a peek behind the scenes and in the locker room, where you wouldn’t normally see.
Take Me Out doesn’t have all the action of a live baseball game, though there are scenes where the actors replicate snippets of them. But the play does have one thing you’ll never get at a game, live or on TV: a candid, unrestricted look into the locker room. Most of the show is set there.
It’s a big deal in the show when fellow pro Davey Battle gets invited to the Empires’ clubhouse, so think of how rare it is that you, the average spectator, get even more access. You’ll witness the good, the bad, the mundane, and the ugly, from the players’ pre-game banter to their post-game showers (you’ve been warned) to their fiery fights. You’ll see a baseball team interact like you never have before.
Take Me Out celebrates male friendships.
So many shows center on friendships between women, but what about shows that focus on camaraderie among men? Hamilton is one great example, with its central quartet of Hamilton, Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan, and Take Me Out is another. One is the friendship between Darren and his business manager, Mason Marzac. Darren inspires Mason to take an interest in baseball, and Darren goes to Mason for support and advice when his teammates ridicule him.
Darren and Kippy Sunderstrom’s friendship is another central part of the show: Though Darren sees Kippy as just a work friend, Kippy ends up being one of the only people who fully supports him after he comes out. Though the same can’t be said of all the Empires, Take Me Out shows the unique, brotherly bond, warts and all, that exists between teammates, and which isn’t often shown on the Broadway stage. If you’ve ever been on a team, the men’s interactions and the locker-room space may feel familiar.
Take Me Out is only two acts, not nine innings.
Take Me Out includes a couple jokes about how long baseball games can take. Mason monologues lovingly about how great it is that there’s no countdown clock in baseball, giving the players all the time they need to succeed, but even he admits that games can run a little long. But don’t worry, Take Me Out isn’t three hours long like a baseball game. Take Me Out runs at a neat 2.5 hours with one intermission, about average for a Broadway show.
Plus, if it’s clear by the fifth inning who’s going to win a baseball match, the rest of the game can feel even longer and slower. But you’ll never have to worry about a lack of intrigue at Take Me Out — there are twists and surprises throughout. Let’s just say that Darren’s sexuality is far from the only secret that gets revealed during the show.
Take Me Out celebrates a love of baseball.
The drama in Greenberg’s play is all about the dark underside of America’s favorite pastime, but there are plenty of scenes that remind us how baseball got that nickname. The players often reference how they first fell in love with the game: donning a mitt and playing catch with their dads in the yard, or going to baseball games with family as kids. The players remind each other more than once they’re all there for the same purpose: to play ball, and their shared love for it is most important, regardless of their race or sexuality. That argument doesn’t always diffuse the tension, but if you’re a sports fan, you’ll relate to that same love of the game.
And even if you’re not a major sports fan, you’ll still find a character to relate to: Mason Marzac. He starts out knowing nothing about the sport and ends a huge fan; his character is the purest representation of love for the game. He even spins theories about the significance of baseball’s details — like how innings, strikes, and plenty other aspects of baseball come in threes — that even die-hard fans might not think much about. You might find yourself fascinated and walk out of Take Me Out, like Mason, with a newfound interest in the sport. And even if you don’t, and you just end up starstruck by Jesse Williams, hey, you and Mason have that in common, too.
Everyone’s rooting for the same team.
Sports rivalries are thrilling, but you don’t have to worry about wearing the wrong jersey to Take Me Out and getting heckled by a crowd of home-team fans. Take Me Out is all about a fictional team, the Empires, and nearly all the characters are its members. Of course, the Empires are based in New York and Take Me Out is performing here, so you might still get some glares if you decide to fit the baseball theme by wearing a Red Sox jersey.
Nonetheless, once the lights go down, you and your fellow audience members join in rooting for the same team — just like at a live sports game — through their wins, losses, hits, and misses on and off the field. If the experience of being in an excited crowd is what excites you about sporting events, you’ll get that thrill from the theatre, too — especially at Take Me Out, where the two experiences are rolled into one. So join the team of people scoring Take Me Out tickets this spring!