Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Hudson Guild Theatre
Extended through November 20
This lightweight comedy, largely about legacy, by TV veteran and former sportscaster Ken Levine, revolves around the hopes and fears of four L.A. sportswriters who are covering a baseball game that’s gone into extra innings.
Dennis (David Babich), Mason (Dennis Pearson) and Jim (Troy Metcalf), long-time colleagues and rivals, are regulars in the stadium press box, where the number of journalists has thinned along with the publications they represent. The guys’ normal discourse is enlivened this particular evening by the arrival of Shana (Annie Abrams), a sideline reporter filling in for the gal who usually does the job. Shana is a knockout and Dennis, a likable and mildly goofy married guy, is smitten. Both he and Mason are solicitous and welcoming, in contrast to Jim, a large disgruntled man whose sexist assumptions are vanquished when Shana recites her impressive resume, which includes academic degrees and awards for a career in professional sports.
The main theme of the piece is the frequent desire of ordinary folk to achieve some sort of immortality, or at least a recognition from others that extends beyond the mortal coil. This happens to be true of Dennis, who knows a lot about baseball but comes up short in other areas of popular culture. He’s never heard of the movie Frozen, for example, nor of the actor Matthew Perry. (He’s persuaded by Jim and Mason that Perry is Secretary of State, and becomes understandably enraged when he discovers he’s been bamboozled.)
As they watch the game, one of the topics of conversation becomes whether or not it’s meaningful to be a baseball Hall of Famer; as Jim cynically points out, not too many people remember who pitched a no-hitter in 1948 — so what does it matter anyway? But for Dennis, the Hall is an achievement, and he dreams of attaining something comparable in his life.
Directed by Andrew Barnicle, Going reflects the playwright’s background in both television and sports. Though he’s tried to make it meaningful, the jokes and their rhythm remain reflective of the TV genre. The other limitation is the plethora of dialogue having to do with baseball — in the end not all that interesting for those among us who aren’t committed fans.
This is the sort of material that can be boosted — or not — by performers with a knack for comic timing. Here, the production’s greatest asset is Babich’s appealing three-dimensional Dennis: a slightly off-kilter man who loves his work and is trapped (though he doesn’t recognize it until the end) in a bad marriage. Babich is also very good at comedy. When the action is focused on his character, the play engages.
The other performances are less striking, in varying degrees. Metcalf, in a role written for a large man, reminds one of John Candy, but — through no fault of the performer’s — with none of the sweetness. Jim is bitter and lonely and Metcalf could afford to reveal more of that vulnerability along with the character’s belligerence. Abrams is extremely attractive and self-possessed but, again, more depth would be welcome. A competent Pearson hasn’t yet established much of an inner self to give substance to his role.
Hudson Theatre Guild, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Extended through Nov. 20.(323) 960-5521 or www.plays411.com/gone. Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission.