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Take Me Out (R18) | 4/5

SINGAPORE — Since American playwright Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out opened on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Play along the way in 2003, its liberal incorporation of male nudity and themes of homosexuality and race has consistently drawn both attention and flak. And this bold, spirited and ambitious Singapore staging certainly doesn’t hold back.

SINGAPORE — Since American playwright Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out opened on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Play along the way in 2003, its liberal incorporation of male nudity and themes of homosexuality and race has consistently drawn both attention and flak. And this bold, spirited and ambitious Singapore staging certainly doesn’t hold back.

Take Me Out covers a lot more territory than you might expect, and the pleasures it offers are not merely voyeuristic. The play tells the story of Darren Lemming (Juan Jackson), a rich and famous baseball star who abruptly comes out of the closet at the peak of his stardom, throwing his team into turmoil and confusion. Although the news is well-received by Kippy Sunderstrum (Tim Garner), his best friend on the team, the reactions of the other players vary between hesitant tolerance and hostility. The discomfort within the team, however, escalates when a new pitcher, Shane Mungitt (Chris Bucko), a talented but undereducated small-town newbie, is recruited from a rural team to save the Empires from a ruinous season.

The performances — solo and collectively — are robustly satisfying. Jackson, an actor whose flawless physique can best be described as adonis-like, makes Lemming’s confident belief that his godlike status won’t be affected by his admission seem candid rather than arrogant. Garner makes for an earnest Kippy, who serves as the narrator and moral backbone of the story.

Hayden Tee is outstanding as Mason Marzac, Lemming’s geeky and neurotic money manager who develops an unexpected passion for the game, in part due to his passion for Lemming. His child-like wonder of discovery and his bliss of new infatuation are all expertly executed, and it certainly helps that Greenberg has written some wonderful monologues for the character that Tee delivers with infectious enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Bucko manages to imbue a potentially single-dimension character with depth that allows a glimpse at the frustrated person inside.

Riddled with humour, Greenberg’s writing is snappy and fun — and it is great dialogue, along with deliberate execution and interaction between the actors that light up a production that could have (and has been alleged in the past) little more than a cheap shot at gratuitous nudity. What comes through amidst the flashes of skin is a story about the pursuit of identity, with each character searching in some way for the truth in himself and those around him.

What: Take Me Out

When: Till Jan 31

Where: Till Jan 16, at DBS Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road. Jan 18 to 31, at Alliance Francaise Theatre, 1 Sarkies Road.

Tickets: S$65 and S$75 from Sistic. www.sistic.com.sg

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