“John Baxter is a Switch Hitter” Presented by Intiman Theatre Festival

The Seattle Fireflies (Charles Leggett, Drew Combs, Brace Evans, Adam Standley, and Tyler Trerise. Photo by Chris Bennion

The Seattle Fireflies (Charles Leggett, Drew Combs, Brace Evans, Adam Standley, and Tyler Trerise. Photo by Chris Bennion

Gay or straight, playing ball brings enormous satisfactions. In this production, members of a gay softball team, “The Seattle Fireflies,” are elated to host and possibly win their league’s national finals, the Gay Softball World Series. Meanwhile in San Francisco, another team is elated to encounter a stupendous ballplayer who agrees to join that team. With him on their side, they are sure they’ll win the series.

What the San Franciscans failed to do was ask him if he is gay. He never mentions his sexual orientation, and on they go to the final game of the play-offs. Thus begins a tale of prejudice and exclusion where the immediate victim is a white guy perceived as straight, but, of course, as in all hateful situations, the larger group is equally damaged. It’s a story of the dangers of preconceived notions. It’s a revelatory production loaded with heartbreaking truths, yet equally replete with humor.

In this, the play’s inaugural presentation, director Rosa Joshi and her production team have performed some amazing theatrical feats. On the open stage they create a realistic ballpark as well as intimate scenes. There are rowdy locker rooms and sweet marriage preliminaries. When you hear the crack of the bat, you can almost see the non-existent ball soar out over the audience’s heads.

The playwrights Ana Brown and Andrew Russell (artistic director of the company) have cleverly divided the play in two. Act 1 is the set-up, here you get a lot of inside gay jokes, gestures, and language. It establishes the stereotype perhaps a little too repetitively, but always with humor. The second act leaves much of the humor behind. It’s here that the cruelties and heartbreaking realities are revealed. It’s here where the audience is asked to consider both the subtle and overt manifestations of prejudice. It’s in the second act where gay personal histories and heterosexual revelations bring one up short.

The acting is uniformly good. The 18-member cast is enormous by local standards, and there’s not a weak member in it. You’ll walk away from this production having had a great theatrical experience and quite a lot to think about.

Check Intiman Festival website for dates, at Cornish Playhouse, Seattle Center, (206-315-5838 or www.intiman.org)

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