What goes on in the press box at a baseball game? While this may not be a question you’ve contemplated, Going…Going…GONE!, a world premiere comedy play currently being presented at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Los Angeles, takes you inside this unique setting for a tight 90 minutes exploring what it’s truly like to work as a journalist covering America’s pastime.
Written by Ken Levine, an Emmy-winning TV writer as well as a sportscaster and former host of Dodger Talk, Going…Going…GONE! unfolds over the course of one baseball game that proves to be life-changing for four journalists. You have Dennis (David Babich), a nerdy, uptight newspaper reporter who takes his job very seriously and dreams of becoming a baseball historian. Mason (Dennis Pearson) is an LA Times reporter who is struggling to reconcile his deep love for the game with the knowledge that he works in a dying medium. Big Jim (Troy Metcalf) writes for a sports website, but mostly shows up for the free food. Shana (Annie Abrams) is a TV newscaster filling in for the night who quickly becomes embroiled in the interpersonal drama of the other members of the press.
Despite the fact that the entire play takes place in one small location, Andrew Barnicle’s direction smartly uses the structure of a baseball game (although this particular game turns out to be very atypical) to move the story along, and Levine’s quick-witted dialogue never fails to keep things interesting. The language is snappy and relevant, and there is a lot of very smart commentary on the evolving state of journalism. The reporters frequently point out that once upon a time, the stadiums would be full of press, but over time, it has been whittled down to just a few. They complain about how they are now required to have a social media presence, and you see how jaded they have become—for example, they typically finish writing their stories early in the game and have two endings on standby to enable them to make their deadline. It’s a bit of a depressing reality, and the introduction of Shana, who is new to this environment and by far the most interested in actually watching the game, provides an interesting contrast.
Naturally, Shana’s presence also draws a different kind of interest from the three men who are unused to having a beautiful young woman present in their “sanctuary,” which is how they refer to the press box, their home away from home. Although the audience was laughing nearly constantly, I was slightly disappointed by the fact that on paper, all four characters are quite stereotypical: the overweight guy who constantly talks about food, the blonde, female reporter in the short skirt, the anxious perfectionist who literally pops Xanax like candy, and the African American guy whose race is constantly mentioned. The most tropey aspects of their personalities were frequently played for laughs, and while it was effective, there were times I wished the playwright would dig deeper.
That being said, an emotional twist towards the end truly caught me by surprise, and as a result, the characters are all forced to evaluate their own happiness and mortality. After over an hour of easy jokes such as Big Jim referring to Mason by a different famous African American’s name every time he addresses him, I was not expecting the play to get so real so quickly. It worked, though, and in the aftermath, the characters all became a little more fully realized.
The unique setting is absolutely the defining feature of this play—I am not a baseball fan, but I was still riveted by this unique perspective, and it helps that I am obviously interested in journalism. It was apparent Levine has a great deal of experience in this field. It’s such a specific world, and in a short amount of time it’s painted very clearly. Even if you have no interest in either sports or sports reporting, Going…Going…GONE! poses some interesting, universal questions as well. There is a lot of discussion of the concept of a legacy, relating to both the players and the writers. Is sticking it out in what is considered a “dying medium” worth it? Is a love for what you do enough to justify seemingly impractical choices? And finally—how do you want to be remembered?
Going…Going…GONE! runs at the Hudson Guild Theatre through November 6th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets, which cost $30, can be purchased at www.plays411.com/gone.