|Brian Rife, Brittni Bargerstar in B Street Theatre's production of “Love and Baseball.”
B Street staff/Courtesy photo
There is a magical moment at the beginning of B Street Theatre’s new production, “Love & Baseball.” The character Will (Brian Rife) is trying to explain to Michele (Brittni Barger) the excitement of Game One of the 1988 World Series. He puts on a recording of announcer Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola calling the plays and he takes a baseball bat and pretends to be batter Kirk Gibson.
As the recording progressed I happened to glance at my husband, who was sitting up straight, leaning forward, mouth open, a big smile on his face, obviously hanging on to every word.
Then I looked around the theater and all over were other men “of a certain age” reacting the very same way.
That was when I knew that playwright Jerry R. Montoya had something special in his new script. Baseball is the great American pastime and brings back many memories to those who went off to watch their favorite team with Dad.
Later in the show, Will starts telling the story of the 1955 World Series, Dodgers and Yankees, Game 1. “Jackie Robinson was standing on third….” and again a ripple went through the audience as, all over, one person was leaning over and telling his or her companion what was coming.
B Street’s promotional material for this show says the play has “just the right amount of romance and sports to be entertaining to men and women alike.” The reaction from this audience certainly proved that to be true.
But it’s more than simply love and baseball. It’s the intelligent, crisp dialog and it’s that magical chemistry that some pairs of actors have and others have to pretend to have. The look the two actors have when they talk to each other just felt very real.
With direction by Buck Busfield and Montoya, the scenario flows realistically as well, and as Will and Michelle converse, the conversation becomes very organic and more like peeking in a neighbor’s window rather than watching a carefully scripted stage production.
However, one does need a degree of suspension of disbelief in the on-again, off-again not-quite romance of Will and Michelle. They meet a sum total of three times over five years, for a brief visit each time. Even given the possibility of love at first sight, these two are pushing the limit.
Barger’s Michele is a spunky, independent spirit, sharing an apartment with Will’s old roommate, who, she explains, is “just a friend.” She is just adventurous enough to consider an odd offer Will makes to her.
Rife as Will has all the easy-going charm of a Jimmy Stewart in his heyday. He is an independent filmmaker trying to save the 11 remaining Mexican gray wolves and so he can’t stay around to pursue what seems to be perhaps the start of something serious.
Unexpected things happen and it is two years before the two meet again, under the most awkward of situations. The spark is still there, but thinking about it is impossible.
But it’s fun to believe that true love is possible with a total stranger as we watch their relationship build and fall apart. Will they, like Jackie Robinson, make it to home plate in the end?
This is, indeed, a play that women will enjoy for its romance and any man or baseball-loving woman will enjoy for the memories of the good old days of classic baseball. It’s a show that everyone can fall in love with.
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