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Jacques Cowart II plays Darren Lemming in Ensemble Theatre Company’s Take Me Out. (David Bazemore photo)

Baseball season may be winding down but Ensemble Theatre Company‘s fall season is just getting started, and it’s making its first pitch with Richard Greenberg‘s Take Me Out, directed by ETC executive artistic director Jonathan Fox. Take Me Out runs through Oct. 19 at the Alhecama Theatre, 914 Santa Barbara St.

Take Me Out concerns the fortunes of a baseball player named Darren Lemming, described as “a major-league superstar: a handsome, young, heavy-hitting center fielder for the New York Empires, an ideal athlete on a championship World Series team, beloved by all and on top of the world.” The above describes Lemming up to the moment when he publicly announces he is gay. Then his external persona experiences a significant red shift. What this bombshell wreaks upon the public and fans is only marginally the concern of playwright Greenberg. The play’s main focus is how Lemming’s outing of himself changes entirely the dynamics of his relationship with his teammates. An emotional storm breaks out in the locker room, which is one of the principal settings of the play. In the course of the drama, which, inevitably, has its hilarious moments, the audience witnesses what amounts to a calculus of human interaction, involving homophobia, isolation, racial tension and the cult of celebrity.

But Take Me Out is no exposé — no sour denunciation of the athletic ethos. It is an absorbing human document. As the Ensemble would have it, it is “a funny, shocking, twisted love letter to that classic American sport: baseball.”

The team members, if I may use that expression, find themselves fully exposed in the play’s most notorious and controversial scene: the after-the-game shower scene — “complete with full nudity.” Fox insists that “The play’s nudity is integral to the play’s atmosphere and plot. The play is exciting and daring, and I suspect it will shake things up a bit. In my opinion, it is Greenberg’s best play, lyrical in its examination of American culture and metaphor.”

Greenberg is a Tony Award-winning American playwright, with more than 25 plays produced, including The Injured Party, The Violet Hour, Everett Beekin, Hurrah at Last, Three Days of Rain, Night and Her Stars, The Extra Man, The Dazzle, The American Plan, Life Under Water and The Author’s Voice. He has also adapted August Strindberg’s Dance of Death that recently played on Broadway, starring Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and David Strathairn.

Greenberg grew up in East Meadow, Long Island, graduated from East Meadow High School, graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, attended Harvard for graduate work in English, and was accepted into Yale’s playwriting program.

Take Me Out stars Jacques Cowart II (as Lemming), Michael Polak (Kippy), James Stellos (Mason Marzac), Travis Johns (Shane Mungitt), Johnny Kostrey (Toddy Koovitz), Trey McCurley (Jason Chenier) and Dennis Takeda (as Kawabata, a Japanese baseball star who speaks no English).

Single tickets for Take Me Out are $29 to $42. Discounts are available to seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. Call the box office at 805.965.5400. The Ensemble Theatre Company Box Office is located in the lobby of the Alhecama Theatre, 914 Santa Barbara St., in the courtyard behind Playá Azul Café.

Noozhawk contributor Gerald Carpenter can be reached at