by Raphael Badagliacca
Baseball and theater, or storytelling of any kind, go hand in glove. Writer/Director Mark Liebert plays this out to the fullest in Complete Game, a comedy with heartfelt moments in nine innings. It runs for one more day, September 29, at Studio Playhouse in Montclair, NJ.
Each of the nine scenes is a play in itself. Then as the evening progresses, the plays artfully interlace. Characters introduced in one “inning” appear in another. The audience becomes aware that the innings are conspiring to tell an overall story made up of parts that will reach its crescendo when things come together in the last inning, just like a game. Hence, Complete Game.
For the baseball fan sensitive to the pull of storytelling, the play makes abundantly clear that each inning in a game is itself a story with a beginning and an end measured in time not by a clock but by events. One out, two outs, three outs and a number of events may or may not happen in between that complete the story. Baseball’s special handling of time has been the subject of many theories as to why the sport seems more meaningful to us than other games. With humor and poignancy, Complete Game’s contribution is to show us that our lives are measured by human events — this is how we count what counts.
So across these nine innings we have failure and regret, the loss of relationships and the kindling of new ones, the search for love, maternal tenderness, disregard, humorous miscommunication, stubbornness, longing, and above all, hope. The game’s greatest lesson is to never give up until the last out.
It would be unfair and reduce your pleasure for me to tell you what happens in the innings, but I ill give one preview. An older man in a nursing home sitting in a wheel chair appears comatose until conversation among family members mentions the Brooklyn Dodgers at which point he comes to life full of statistics and specifics. This happens several times.
Stepping skillfully between baseball myth, its and communal encyclopedic memory, and the flesh-and-blood reality of its fans, Complete Game, with its substantial cast, deserves to play in more than one stadium. General managers and theater managers please take note.
Written and directed by Mark Liebert
with Ali Archetti (Ali), Bill Barry (Chuck), Debbie Buschsbaum (Tillie), Sam Carpel (Sarah), Christopher Gibbs (Casey), John Ivanic (Saul), Jessica Latour (Jess), Gary Martin (Max), George Ruthauser (voice overs), David Robert Santarlasci (Jake), Patrick Stucky (Stash), Michael Turner (Sandy).
Co-Stage Manager, Samantha Silver; Co-Stage Manager, Judi Liebert; Sound Designer, Russ Meyer; Costume Designer, Julia Sharp; Lighting Designer, Kevin Ohlweiler; Assistant Lighting Designer, Shelby Pickelny; Properties Master, Mark Liebert; Lighting Operations, Steve Sandler; Sound Operators, Spencer Fox and Shelly Sakolsky; Construction Crew, Samantha Carpel and Mark Liebert,
Studio Playhouse at 14 Alvin Place, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Tickets: 973-744-9752 or www.studioplayhouse.org.
Runs through September 29, 2019. Saturday, 3PM & 8PM and Sunday 3PM,