Meltdowns

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  April 18, 2006

Sarah Newhouse is all angles and agitation as Dana but gets at once looser and more brittle as Strawberry, whose struggle with the transition from LA pick-up game to the big business of Major League baseball mirrors the insecure artist’s own distress. And she makes the character’s accumulating fall into her fantasy seem both a little ridiculous and oddly smart. Certainly the borrowed persona allows her to lash out at the chic “gallerist” (a companionably predatory Maureen Keiller) who takes a 50 percent commission if not at the dealer’s assistant (Eve Passeltiner, amelioration padding her character’s ambition), who is both the artist’s chum and an adept rider on her coattails. Keiller also does a knowing turn as the psychiatrist who wants to sell Dana on her worth but clearly isn’t buying Strawberry. And Chris Brophy, sympathetic as the defecting boyfriend, is hilariously intense as the psycho conveniently boned up — as is Adam Soule’s sweetly recovering alcoholic — on baseball stats. Brophy’s attempted murderer also carries the play’s somewhat sour proclamation that the outer circles of success are manned by “wanna-bes” who are gunning rather than rooting for the ones in the middle.

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball doesn’t make the surprise leap from breezy urbanity into the troubling muck beneath the smooth surface of contemporary American life that Spinning into Butter and Gilman’s accumulatively chilling stalker comedy Boy Gets Girl do. But it has something to say about the pressures of success — which ambushed Gilman around the turn of this century — and it says it in a manner that’s slyer and more effective than whining from the winner’s circle.
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