Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2016’

Value Over Replacement hits a three bagger at the Thick House

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Value Over Replacement by Ruben Grijalva. Directed by Jim Kleinman. PlayGround 20 @ the Thick House, 1695 18th Street (off Arkansas Street), San Francisco, CA www.playground-sf.org/festival,  or (415) 992-6677. June13 –July 10, 2016

Value Over Replacement hits a three bagger at the Thick House Rating: ★★★☆☆

In 2013 at PlayGround 17 Ruben Grijalva hit a homerun with his 10 minute ripped from the headlines play Value Over Replacement. In the intervening years he has expanded the play into two acts with four of six actors play multiple roles. In doing so it still is a powerful play with a shift of emphasis on the use of anabolic steroids from an individual player to the general effects on the entire game of baseball with a plethora of representative characters. In the intervening years the play has been a winner of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Finalist. He has accomplished this by using nonlinear format with multiple short scenes.

Doing so creates a dilemma for any director but Jim Kleinman is up to the task by using a bare-bones production allowing rapid minimal changes of the set to keep the show within two hours running time including an intermission. However on opening night the scene changes were not smooth thus diluting some of the impact written into the script. Author Grijalva’s use of dialog is more than commendable and his cast performs admirably. The play’s title Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) refers to a statistic that attempts to quantify the marginal utility of a given player by comparing his production to that of a hypothetical “replacement” player, who is an average fielder and a below-average hitter.

Jomar Tagatac returns from the original cast and gives verisimilitude to the protagonist Edward “Chip” Fuller. Chip worked his way up in baseball’s farm system to become an icon with his stellar play for stealing bases in the major leagues. He now is part of a respected radio talk show team with Dan Drake (Alex Shafer) and a major portion of the play includes the radio phone in format.  

(l-r) Alex Shafer and Jomar Tagatac

(l-r) Alex Shafer and Jomar Tagatac

Before the first radio studio scene, the theatre is filled with the National Anthem and Chip gives an impassioned poetic monolog about what is like to finally reach the major leagues and stepping on that “big green field” equating it to opening night for an actor. Then there is a flashback to young Chip (Martha Brigham) catching baseballs hit by his father Jack (Alex Shafer) to set the tone for the motivation that drives the play.

When Dan informs him that there is an upcoming investigation and he will be named for using performance enhancing drugs decisions must be made for his reply. He refuses to be equated with a big star Mike Clausen (Christian Haines) who blatantly denies all to a Congressional Committee. Chip however is not denying their use but adamantly defends the use of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). He insists he will be “pathologically honest.”

Without the use of the drugs he insists “I was only months away from becoming a used car salesman.” Further justification, besides fulfilling his youthful dream and that of his father, are personal family relationships with wife Emily (Melissa Ortiz) that are skillfully woven into the play.

Grijalva has done his homework on the side effects of steroids and they are woven into the storyline but never seeming didactic. He also explores the adulation of the young fans and the responsibility imposed on the players as role models.

 (l-r) Jomar Tagatac, Martha Brigham and Melissa Ortiz

(l-r) Jomar Tagatac, Martha Brigham and Melissa Ortiz

Drama is adroitly woven into the script especially in the confrontations of Chip with his wife, son and Father and a shocking scene toward the end of the evening before the author bookends play with the lyrical monolog that starts the evening in an entirely hostile setting.

CAST: Jomar Tagatac, Edward “Chip” Fuller; Alex Shafer, Jack Fuller, Dan Drake; Martha Brigham, Young Chip, Alex Fuller, Danny Briggs; Melissa Ortiz, Emily Fuller; Christian Haines, Mike Clawson, Congressman, and Others; Stephanie Prentice, Peggy Briggs, Congresswoman, and Others.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Lighting Designer, Kate Boyd; Sound Designer, Josh Senick; Costume Designer, Jocelyn Leiser Herndon; Casting Consultant, Annie Stuart;  Properties Artisan, Ting Na Wang; Production Manager, Marcus Marotto; Stage Manager, Gary Quinn; Publicist, Gary Carr.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Photos: mellopix.com