(ABOVE: Mile Square Theatre photo)
by Margaretha Heidel
A lot can happen in ten minutes, and Saturday’s performances at Mile Square Theatre proved it, as a team of theatre professionals gathered together pro bono and, like a ballet, put together 7th Inning Stretch—a seamless evening of seven 10-minute plays that all had something to do with baseball.
A lively audience packed the house to enjoy seven plays that truly ran the gamut. Some were more overtly themed—as in “My Last Mitt,” when a young player has to decide to sell his soul to the devil to keep his winning glove, or in “Daisy” in which the older brother of a star MLB player thinks he will woo an attractive fan away from his brother. Others, not so much—as in “Broken Window Theorem”, in which a young female mathematician with zero skills in baseball comes to her female teacher’s house to ask for help with how to play for the upcoming male-dominated company picnic.
A delightful evening it was, starting from the first pitch in which Chris O’Connor, Mile Square Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director, gets heckled by the announcer (Matt Lawler, who also directs one of the pieces) into doing the usual spiel on contributing to this year’s season. Another pitched in with a great rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, and the show began and moved effortlessly from one piece to the next.
The acting and direction were strong across the board and you cannot overlook the fantastic writers that were represented as well—almost a who’s who among contemporary playwrights.
Most Valuable Players of the evening include Sturgis Warner’s J.C. King in “The New Commish,” in which he plays a thinly veiled Jesus Christ, being interviewed by the droll Matt Falber about how he is ‘saving’ baseball. Quite a nod to Hoboken’s actual history, as he of course mentions the first game at Elysian Fields.
I found “Out of the Park” to be the Home Run of the night—right out of the park in the first inning, it seemed. Shabazz Green and Eddie Carroll had an incredible connection in such a short amount of time and I felt the audience truly glued to their performances. It was one of those moments that makes you truly understand why live theatre still exists. You can’t experience this on TV ladies and gentlemen!
“Run” also deserves a nod. Celey Schumer and Jon Krupp are a father daughter team on this one. Father, trying to get his teen aged daughter to run a mile so that he can get her into softball and solve whatever is troubling her. In the course of this run we learn of her worries in a great monologue very well delivered by Schumer. One of my favorite lines of the night is in here, in which she is questioning, “…what if she isn’t smart at all, but kind of an idiot that is really good at memorizing?” Krupp, who was in the spring production of MST’s “Circle Mirror Transformation” turned in a terrifically subtle Dad with a poignantly played ending.
Last in show order and certainly not least was “It’s Panetti,” in which Taylor Dawn Brauer plays Stoop, the brilliant new cop to Douglas Taurel’s nicely done Tony. Tony the senior cop of the pair and sees Stoop as stupid, thus naming her so. Totally believable was O’Connor playing the priest, and the surprise ending was a great way to end the show.
7th Inning Stretch is a great opportunity to see a wide variety of super talented folks get it right. I commend the whole team at Mile Square for doing an excellent job bringing great theatre to Hoboken and I hope to see it year after year in all its glory.
Move over Damn Yankees, there’s a new kid in town.