I love theater that isn’t neat and clean. I love it when characters grow and evolve in unexpected ways, existing in shades of gray the whole time. I love it when conflicts have messy, uneven resolutions—if they even resolve at all.
Which is why I love the Tony-winning Take Me Out, which I saw last night.
The play explores the collision of unapologetic homosexuality and professional sports—specifically what could happen in the locker room and on the diamond when a talented, famous baseball player unexpectedly outs himself in the national media. To stir up the waters even further, it throws in a fundamentalist best friend, a multicultural team roster and a thoroughly redneck relief pitcher struggling to exist with what he so predictably calls niggers, spics and faggots.
But the show isn’t predictable. And—with the exception of the fundamentalist best friend, who talks like a pompous preacher and proudly lives in a religious vacuum—the characters aren’t archetypes. The redneck wrestles with darker demons than his ignorance and bigotry. The business manager is a lonely, self-deprecating gay stereotype who, in a surprise epiphany, discovers in himself a burning (and often comical) passion for baseball. The gay baseball player is both arrogant and humble about his talents—and completely undefined by his sexuality (though his utter lack of demonstrable sex drive smacks of don’t-scare-the-wimmin-and-children Will Trumanism). And his closest teammate seems to be a bastion of good-natured humor and impartiality … until he makes a critical—though well-meaning—lapse in judgment.
The play combines the epic story arcs of Greek tragedy and the bathos of slapstick, bouncing a cast of complex, imperfect characters around each other in a well-paced (though at times awkwardly written) narrative.
Oh, yes. And there’s full-frontal male nudity. Lots of it. With bodies you can’t tear your eyes away from. And while on some levels it’s undeniably gratuitous—Steppenwolf wouldn’t promote the show with this photo if it wouldn’t sell lots of tickets to lots of homos—it’s also essential to the exploration of sexuality, homophobia and locker-room fraternity in professional sports.
And it’s narrated by this handsome fella, whose goofy charms and meaty thighs can keep you distracted for days.
Oh, what the hell. Let’s have one last look at that gratuitous photo, where Mr. Meaty Thighs shares an awkward shower moment with Mr. Jiggly Comic Relief and Mr. Tight Little Yoga Body:
Showers can be SO cleansing, am I right?
Originally scheduled to close this weekend, Take Me Out has extended its run through May 22. Go see it.