March 2004 - 15 May 2004
Monday - Saturday 7.30pm
3, 10, 17, 24 April, 1, 8 and 15 May 3.30pm
29 April 3.30pm
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Review by Philip Fisher (2004)
The British Theatre Guide
Swing in Baseball may be a star vehicle but American playwright Rebecca Gilman's
densely woven play, receiving its world premiere in London, is also far more.
This is Miss Gilman's fourth play at the Royal Court and, once again, features a
fascinating, insecure female protagonist.
Under the very cool and relaxed
direction of Ian Rickson, it not only paints a portrait of a very unhappy woman
but it also explores issues relating to the nature of success, coming to terms
with oneself and the border between madness and sanity.
Bechtler's wide-open white set, beautifully lit by Howard Harrison, the life of
artist, Dana Fielding, played by former X-Files star Gillian Anderson, is put
under the spotlight. The play unfolds at a nice leisurely tempo as, first, Dana
is dumped by her boyfriend and then, despite the efforts of her ruthless (art)
dealers, her latest show bombs.
Soon, she finds herself in a mental
institution with a really odd couple, a gay drunk (Demetri Goritsas) and a
sinister stalker (John Sharian). Rather surprisingly, and despite getting a
second-rate shrink, Dana cannot handle the realisation that her insurance will
only allow her 10 days of residency before she becomes a victim of the American
equivalent of care-in-the-community.
It is then that, rather than taking
mind-altering drugs, she comes up with her cunning plan to fool the authorities
into believing that she is Darryl Strawberry. He is a man with his own problems
but who, on his day could demonstrate The Sweetest Swing in
With minor changes in voice and manner, Miss Anderson allows
her character to take on a new persona that causes one doctor (Kate Harper) to
laugh while her cannier boss (Nancy Crane) appears completely taken
At this point, for various reasons the story shows up a number of
logical weaknesses that suggest that it is intended to be non-naturalistic. It
is here that its examination of moral and philosophical issues overtakes the
need to answer questions about plot that have no solutions.
is on stage throughout the two-and-a-quarter hours of the play, changing on
stage to facilitate speedy transitions between scenes. These are accompanied by
suitably unbalanced minimalist music composed by Peter Salem.
strength in the part is that she demonstrates Dana's vulnerability superbly.
While she is not really believable in the Baseball scenes, it is reasonable to
assume that this is a deliberate device concocted by writer and director. It is
only by becoming Darryl Strawberry in her own mind that she can release her
blocked creative channels and re-enter society as a success.
This is a
really interesting production with hidden depths and a sting in the tail. It
will prove popular at the box-office if only for the chance to see a big TV and
film star on stage.
It is strongly recommended because it addresses
issues of mental health and the pressures that success brings in the 21st
century rat race in a really original and enjoyable way.