“4000 Miles” – Actors Theatre and “Take Me Out” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 13, 2014


“4000 MILES”
Actors Theatre, Black Theatre Troupe’s Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

Two plays opened over the weekend.  Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” in Actors Theatre’s superb staging is brilliantly acted and sensitively directed.  The other production is a disappointing remounting of Nearly Naked Theatre’s most popular play “Take Me Out.”

The local premiere of “4000 Miles” is a touching generational gap play that shows movingly the way an elderly grandmother and her hip grandson look so differently at life.  The play is solid but it is Matthew Wiener’s masterful production,  blessed with a fine acting ensemble that gives each character tremendous depth and range and makes “4000 Miles” move audiences emotionally.  Best acting is Patti Davis Suarez as outspoken octogenarian Vera.  This with-it grandmother is amazingly together and although infirmities impact her, Vera’s mind is bright and limber.  Suarez is so perfect in the role that anyone who relishes unusually fine acting must see her stunning interpretation.

“4000 Miles” continues through January 26.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.actorstheatrephx.org.

Grade: A

Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

There’s nothing worse than entering a theater that’s jammed to capacity and is too warm.  And when the performance is a sluggishly directed and poorly acted staging of “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s insider look at baseball and the importance of work relationships, a deadly theater experience awaits.

What makes no sense is that this disaster is produced by the same company that mounted the local premiere of this richly written play several years ago and did it brilliantly.  Before, the play was well acted resulting in carefully crafted characterizations but now it is littered with weak actors who never convincingly become the play’s diverse characters.

Set in a major league baseball team’s locker room, the play deals with the interactions between the players and how these relationships change and have an impact on the outcome of each game.

There’s no excuse for the sloppy production when company artistic director Damon Dering mounted this same play before to such well-deserved acclaim.  This time you care nothing about this team, its players, or the struggles of working together to win games.

In “Take Me Out” each player brings unique qualities to the team plus the rivalries between the team’s players should keep things interesting.  Here the listless performances result in each character becoming a sad stereotype.

Most disappointing is Eric Boudreau’s effete Mason, a baseball fanatic all agog about the sport.  It’s hard to believe that Boudreau would ever care about baseball.

“Take Me Out” falls flat with a heavy thud and continues through February 1.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.nearlynakedtheatre.org.

Grade: D