Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd / Managing Director: Adrienne Proctor / Editor: Jillian Pritchard Ball

“The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” Swings a Little Low

Elizabeth Hurd Published: October 20th, 2016

“The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” is the newest production from Carpenter Square Theatre. The title is taken from the exciting career of Darryl Strawberry. Rebecca Gilman writes about an artist who steals the identity of Darryl Strawberry in order to qualify for insurance coverage at a clinic. As an artist on the verge of success Dana struggles with her insecurities in her career as well as personal life. As she learns about Darryl Strawberry and takes on the veneer of his attitudes she finds confidence in all aspects of her life.

“The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” is directed by Tom Cowley bringing a great deal of expertise to the production. The cast is a well-rounded group of troupers who seem to revel in their parts. The play is rather short and consists of numerous short scenes to tell the story. As a result, establishing a characterization that is more than superficial is virtually impossible. Nevertheless cast members take advantage of every moment available.

The set is one area meant to represent an art gallery and a mental hospital. The clinical ambiance of both locales is harsh and unforgiving; an interesting contrast with the characters. Amy Kelly is Dana Fielding, a young woman developing a successful career as an artist but going nowhere with her boyfriend Roy. All of the other cast members take dual roles either inside the institution as patient or doctor or outside the clinic as friends, colleagues and lovers. Kelly develops the role but Dana still seems much too self-assured to express her inner struggles. As the play progresses, the personality of Darryl Strawberry becomes more evident and the self-assurance is a better fit.

The dual roles of long-suffering boyfriend Roy and psychopathic murderer Gary are skillfully handled by Mark Fairchild. His talent is revealed in a remarkably intense and alarming encounter between Dana and Gary. Greg Crall plays Brian, an up and coming artist Dana is acquainted with and then Michael, a gay alcoholic computer programmer with a streak of loyalty. Crall makes both characters as interesting as possible acting as sidekick for Dana.

Zaneen Hotchkiss plays Rhonda, the snobbish and parasitic gallery owner handling Dana’s art work and also Dr. Gilbert, Dana’s sympathetic therapist. Hotchkiss gives both characters their own brand of savoir faire yet creates a clear division of good and evil or rather sincere and snooty. Lana Henson holds her own as Erica, Rhonda’s assistant at the gallery and friend to Dana as well as chief therapist at the institution, Dr. Stanton. Erica is a nervously helpful friend to Dana and a stark contrast to the self-contained Chief of Lunacy.

“The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” does not strike out, but there are no home runs. Rather it seems to be a series of foul balls out of left field. With such a talented cast there are occasional flashes of brilliance in this show but no depth, no substance and no grit. Fortunately those moments of importance each actor finds make the overall experience positive for a charitable audience.

“The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” plays at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City through November 5, 2016. For additional information visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500.