The brilliant Denis O'Hare played the accountant Mason Marzac in Richard Greenberg's Broadway play "Take Me Out" which I saw in 2003. Marzac takes over the financial management of recently out-of-the-closet baseball star Darren Lemming (played by Daniel Sunjata) and falls in love with the game. O'Hare made music of Marzac's testimonial monologue to this new, rapturous infatuation. His joy was so infectious and overflowing, it didn't matter that he was talking about baseball -- a sport that fails to capture even one iota of interest in the hearts of millions.
Mason quickly established himself as the play's stand-in for much of the audience. He began knowing little about baseball and carried an overall disdain for sports figures and machismo. But when O'Hare's Mason fell in love with the game against all odds (and used the monologue to tell us, because he was us and we were him and he was in love and couldn't help telling us), the effect on the audience was electric. By its nature, the direct-address monologue does not lend itself often to the term "showstopper" but the applause O'Hare received when he outstretched his arms and delivered the speech's final line -- "And that is baseball" -- was effusively giddy. Many in the audience were perhaps no more enraptured with baseball than before the play began, and perhaps had only the faintest idea of what O'Hare meant with his references to certain baseball rules and terms. But his complete commitment to the change that had come over this man as a result of new love was all the beautiful translation any human being could need. It didn't matter what his new love was -- it could as well have been a new sport as any new man, woman, pet, or technology device; what mattered was that O'Hare allowed himself to be transported in the unique manner of a man who had discovered a new and better reason to live. Watching his excitement mount as he found the words to articulate why the game had him hooked was pure joy. Surely the world was an incrementally better place, or at least a less dreary one, to have such a happy man living within it.
The casting director Michael Shurtleff famously asks actors in his book "Audition" to find where the scene's "love” is. O'Hare found the love in "Take Me Out" with such mastery that I longed to feel every bit of it vicariously. Seeing its effects on such a likable performer made me and the rest of the audience root for him, and the palpable bond of doing this together created an unforgettable audience experience.
Matthew Trumbull is the writer and performer of the solo play "The Zebra Shirt of Lonely Children," running Aug. 11-24 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. www.zebrashirt.tumblr.com.