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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball
In the next scene we find her holed up in a psychiatric hospital, where she has been taken after having attempted suicide by slicing her wrists with an exacto knife—-lengthwise along the veins rather than across them. It seems that our heroine, Dana (scrupulously played by CB Spencer), fears that her newest art work doesn't live up to her earlier promise. "Maybe it was all just hype," she moans.
Thus begins the Los Angeles premiere of Rebecca Gilman's haunting comedy The Sweetest Swing in Baseball. An exploration of success, identity, and the nature of insanity. Like all Gilman's work, it's intelligent and provocative. It's also insanely funny.
Dana's behavior at the hospital is influenced by two new friends: Roy (Jerry Lloyd), an angry sociopath who was convicted of attempting to murder a CNN anchorman whose opinions and attitudes he disagreed with, and Michael (Brian Weir), a gay young addict undergoing rehab for the umpteenth time.
It is they who inform her that her health insurance will cover only 10 days of hospital treatment---unless she can come up with some major syndrome that requires a longer stay. After reading a biography of baseball star Darryl Strawberry, Dana decides to assume his identity and the symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder. Though she knows very little about baseball and keeps making goofy gaffes, the doctors allow her to stay. As her condition improves. ("Being Darryl freed me up," she exults)). She begins to paint again. Only now she is painting baseball scenes populated by chickens in baseball caps.
"There's no point in trying," Gary, the grumpy sociopath, tells her. "Everybody's a wannabe-something>," he says. "The difference between wannabes and losers is that wannabes make things and losers break things."
Strangely enough, Dana's baseball chickens are a huge success and her reputation is revitalized. But not her identity. In the end is she a lost artist or a wannabe baseball player?
Gilman certainly isn't a wannabe nor a loser. Her reputation is well-established and her talent has never been in question. Even though With The Sweetest Swing in Baseball starts off slowly so that you wonder where it's going, the pace picks up in the second act. And so, while Gilman doesn't completely knock one out of the ball park, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball has to go into the record books as a solid RBI.
The company, which also includes Lilo Greenwald and Ferrell Marshall in multiple parts, is earnest and believable and well-directed by the excellent Ross Kramer. The set design by Stephen Gifford is adequate and serviceable, but Kramer has added a unique touch to the scene changes. The two-man crew who move tables and chairs around to create galleries, hospital rooms, and offices (in this case Brad Cook and Brad Ekstrand) are dressed in appropriate costumes for the scene and incorporate little pieces of business that make them part of the over-all action. That ploy, plus the sound design of Ron Klier, make the many scene changes both speedy and palatable.
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball continues at the El Centro Theater. So go crazy and Play Ball!