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Mail on Sunday
By Georgina Brown
April 4, 2004
Transcript courtesy of Wendy
Gillian goes bats for baseball.
We Brits can be a bit grand about American actors strutting their stuff on our stages. We raved about Kevin Spacey, we hated Kathleen Turner and were impressed by Gwyneth Paltrow, but we were muted, even snooty, about Gillian Anderson - famous as agent Dana Scully in The X Files - when she made her debut in Michael Weller's creaky play What The Night Is For.
Undeterred, she's back, this time in a new play, promisingly titled The Sweetest Swing In Baseball, by the talented American playwright Rebecca Gilman.
This play, alas, doesn't really get past first base and can't begin to
compete with Gilman's brilliant Boy Meets Girl. But Anderson scores a home run.
She's a revelation.
She plays another character named Dana, a hip New York artist who hits a bad
patch and becomes suicidal. Her boyfriend dumps her; her paintings don't
sell, making her latest exhibition a desperate failure; and she's on her fifth
therapist who has no better suggestion than 'herbal tea'.
So she slashes her wrists and finds herself in a psychiatric unit with an
amusingly harmless psycho who has tried to kill a CNN anchorman ('You're not
dangerous?' 'Only to Kevin Bridges') and a delightfully gentle gay recovering
Threatened by lack of insurance and the prospect of being sent home before
she feels ready, she has to persuade her doctors that she is seriously bonkers.
With a little coaching from her friends, she convinces them that she has a
multi-personality disorder and believes herself to be Darryl Strawberry, a
baseball legend who cracked under the strain of his success and became addicted to
drugs and drink.
In losing herself in this persona, she finds a new appetite for painting. It
begins as a joke - pictures of chickens wielding baseball bats - but then the
works are snapped up by her dealer and gallery and suddenly a successful
future as Darryl appears to beckon. But where does that leave Dana?
On one level, Gilman is satirising the interfering bloodsuckers who feed off
the creative spirits of talented individuals; on another it's about the
loneliness of the artist (and, presumably, the writer). And, on another, she
appears to be exploring the line between feigned and real madness. En route, she
throws in banal arguments for and against treating depression with medication
and her views on the wannabe culture.
But none of this mishmash of ingredients blends into a satisfying whole. If
it wasn't for Anderson's raw and intense performance, which commands total
attention, there wouldn't be enough to keep one interested. Once again, Anderson