'Take Me Out' extends its run at Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre

Although the play is only 14 years old, Richard Greenberg’s Tony Award-winning drama “Take Me Out” – recently extended for a third weekend at Bridgeport’s historic Bijou Theatre – might feel a bit dated. Gay people in professional sports have recently begun living out and proud. It isn’t exactly easy, but it is now largely accepted and supported, at least to an extent unheard of at the time that Greenberg wrote his landmark story about Darren Lemming – a Major League baseball superstar with an ego the size of a stadium who makes the sudden decision to casually come out and is unprepared for the subsequent shocking events that engulf everyone around him.
The play’s frank exploration of homophobia and racism, liberal use of adult language, multiple nude scenes and sequences of extreme emotional violence have prevented “Take Me Out” from becoming a community theater staple. But the Bijou Theatre – a key player in the revitalization of downtown Bridgeport – has a mandate to bring bold, provocative and important theatrical productions to the area.

Ferociously funny and darkly dramatic, “Take Me Out” certainly meets those qualifications, and audiences seem to agree. Christine Brown, the theater’s executive producer, made the decision to extend the production during the second performance, which drew a record crowd that Saturday night for an opening weekend presentation of a “straight” play.

“The Bijou is so fortunate to have the opportunity to produce the multiple Tony Award-winning play ‘Take Me Out,’” she said. “It is a compelling, funny and dramatic look at identity, deeply rooted bias and one of America's greatest pastimes, baseball.  The Bijou, and its newly formed Bijou Actors' Guild, look to continuously present thought-provoking and entertaining artistry in its choice of quality plays that address all the challenges of the human condition. We like to tell audiences that ‘our theater is your theater,’ and by producing shows like ‘Take Me Out’ we hope that people of all race, gender, sexual orientation and/or religious belief will feel welcome.”

Richard Mancini, the director of the play whose extensive resume includes recent local productions of “The Miracle Worker” at Westport Community Theater and “Moonlight & Magnolias” at Milford’s Eastbound Theatre, had heard of the play long ago but never seen the New York productions of it off or on Broadway.

“A close friend had seen it and suggested I read it,” Mancini recalled. “He also told me I should direct it someday. I read it and agreed. I was hooked from the very beginning. Along with everything else it is, ‘Take Me Out’ is a love poem to baseball, and the monologues Greenberg has given to the character of Darren Lemming’s humble new business manager Mason Marzac as he describes how he's fallen for the game are simply gorgeous. Through all of our table reads and rehearsals and every performance since they have made me smile. In fact, it's hard not to have a goofy grin on my face as I watch this wonderful cast perform this play.”

Popular Stratford actor Geoffrey Gilbert plays Mason Marzac. The rest of the cast includes Ainsley Andrade in his first lead role as Darren Lemming, Christopher Finch as Darren’s friend and teammate “Kippy” Sunderstrum and BroadwayWorld.com Regional and Onstage Critic Award nominee Mike L’altrella as combustible pitcher Shane Mungitt, along with Brian Alvarado, Juan Ayala, Tim Brandt, JiMinn Moon, Jhulenty De Los Santos, Enrique Rivera, Tom Torpey and Qesar Veliu.

“Take Me Out” will conclude its run with performances on Friday May 27 at 8 p.m. and Saturday May 28 at 8 p.m.