Yesterday, I went to a play in its world premiere run written by my friend Ken Levine, called Going Going Gone. The comedy takes place in the press box during a baseball game, and Ken is probably the best-equipped writer in the world to take on that story. And I think "probably" is being polite. He's an Emmy-winning writer who's worked on such shows as Cheers, M*A*S*H, Frasier and Wings -- as well as creating three series, and co-writing such films as Volunteers (with Tom Hanks and John Candy), and has directed, produced and most likely swept-up many theaters. But beyond all that, he -- and this is the bizarre part -- is also actually a professional baseball announcer, who has been the analyst for the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners (for which he wrote about his experiences in the extremely funny book, It's Gone!...No, Wait a Minute -- named after one of his mistaken home run calls).
The point here is that when you have a play that takes place in a baseball press box, Ken Levine knows from whence he writes.
The show is extremely funny, but also takes a turn and becomes thoughtful and dramatic, as the four main characters get into discussions about their lives, which have the underlying theme of legacy and how you'll be remembered and what you leave behind, as opposed to the value of enjoying what you're doing right now.
Though it takes place at a ballpark, and there's some commentary about what is going on during the game down on the field, the show isn't about baseball at all, and you barely even need a smattering of knowledge about how to play the game. The more you do know, the more you'll get some of the jokes and references, but this is a play about these four people. In that regard, the title of the show doesn't do it justice -- it fits perfectly once you eventually figure out what the play is about (thoughts about how you'll be remembered after you're gone...) -- but since the reference is to a home run call, some potential audience might think this is "just a baseball play." It's not even remotely. It's about the development of these characters' lives, which as the play develops shows them each at various crossroads -- some small, but several large and conflicting. There are several very good confrontations, but mainly it's very funny...as you'd expect from someone with Ken's pedigree -- and skill.
The cast all does an extremely solid job, several of them wonderful, which is a particularly good trick given the confines of the set -- a press box. They are David Babich, Dennis Pearson, Troy Mebcalf and Annie Abrams. (If you saw the recent production of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys with Judd Hirsch and Danny DeVito at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A., as I did, she was in that -- I assume as the nurse in the "doctor's sketch.")
If you live in the Los Angeles area, Going Going Gone is well-worth seeing. It's playing at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood, for which you get ticket information here. The show is one act of 90 minutes, and performances are on Friday through Sunday, with matinees, and it runs through November 20. (It's an extremely small theater, and the performance I went to was nearly sold out.) Since this is a world premiere production, I suspect their hope is that it will play elsewhere around the country -- I don't know their ultimate goal, but it would be a wonderful show for local community theaters since it only requires a small cast and small set.
If you saw the play Bleacher Bums, which takes place in the outfield stands of Wrigley Field during a nine-inning baseball game, there's a certain similar in setting, but beyond that the two shows have absolutely nothing in common -- other than both being funny, thoughtful and very good. And that, in the end, is what Going Going Gone is -- a very enjoyable play. It's always a dicey thing going to a play or movie that a friend wrote, wondering what you'll say if you don't like it much. I relaxed early on during Going Going Gone, knowing that I was safe ground when it was over, and could go up to Ken to tell him in full openness how good it was.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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