Reviewed by Victor Gluck
Presented by The Melting Pot Theatre Company by arrangement with Trigger Street Productions and Kevin Spacey at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, NYC. Opened Nov. 8th for an open run.
Ty Cobb may have been the greatest player in baseball history, but he was also "the meanest man in baseball." Lee Blessing's powerful and fascinating play, "Cobb," which has now moved to the Lucille Lortel Theatre from a run at the Melting Pot Theatre Company last season, shows the man with all his imperfections. The play is more than a study of baseball: as Blessing's Cobb tells us in the opening scene, his life was a Greek tragedy from the beginning.
Blessing fantasizes Cobb interacting with himself at three stages of his life: the young ballplayer in his prime, the successful businessman, and the broken old man in retirement. Playing these personas, Michael Sabatino has the passion and youthful exuberance of the beginner, Matthew Mabe has the cynicism of the millionaire star, and Michael Cullen has the anger of the misanthrope who feels cheated and misunderstood. The only other character is Cobb's nemesis, Oscar Charleston, known as the "Black Cobb," played with subtle power by Clark Jackson. Director Joe Brancato keeps the play unfolding like a mystery, yet never lets the transitions or multiple characterizations become confusing.
Each Blessing play creates an entirely new dramatic form. "Cobb" brings the protagonist back from the grave to defend his life. As he tries to whitewash or reinvent himself, the earlier selves unwittingly offer pieces of the puzzle: his mother shooting his father when Cobb was 17, his continual fights and convictions, his rivalry with Babe Ruth, his years as star player of the Detroit Tigers when no one would room with him. And yet this was the first player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the man who led the record of 96 stolen bases for 47 years and turned baseball into the national pastime and sports into big business.