Arts & Theater

Jerry Montoya’s new play fills a gap at B Street Theatre

Brian Rife and Brittni Barger in “Love and Baseball,” by Jerry Montoya at B Street Theatre
Brian Rife and Brittni Barger in “Love and Baseball,” by Jerry Montoya at B Street Theatre Courtesy B Street Theatre

Jerry Montoya considers himself the utility infielder of B Street Theatre. By that he means he often works where he’s needed for the good of the team.

His title is associate producer, but he’s also essentially the production manager for the company’s three stages, and he often directs shows, occasionally stage manages and writes plays for the continually churning Family Series. His 12th such script for the popular series oriented toward school-age children is the smart, informed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” which opened Feb. 20.

Montoya has another original play debuting on the same B2 stage this week, a two-character work called “Love and Baseball.” It’s not Montoya’s first produced play for adults – several years ago he wrote an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” produced by the Delta King (now Capital Stage). He has also written two full-length plays produced at B Street as intern showcases.

Montoya came up through a golden age of theater instruction at Sacramento City College under instructors including Donna Sparks, Kelly Weir and Rodger Hoopman. Many of his former classmates are theater professionals across the country.

The production of “Love and Baseball,” though, is the unexpected culmination of an on-again, off-again project Montoya began in 2008.

“It’s really about falling in love when you first meet someone,” Montoya said. “And whether that’s real or not.”

In the play, Will, a baseball junkie and aspiring filmmaker, meets Michele, a philosophy teacher, while she is waiting at his apartment to meet his roommate. They each feel something for the other but just miss connecting over a period of years. He explains their relationship to her in terms of baseball analogies.

The inspiration goes back to Montoya meeting his wife, Erika Teach. He thought she was a “special person,” but if anything was going to happen between them or whether it would work out was unclear. He trusted his instincts.

“Then it works out, and I kind of believe that the magic does exist. It ends up being a ton of work – it can go away and come back again – which is what the show is really about. Life gets in the way of the magic at times.”

Two years ago, Montoya had done as much work on the script as he felt he could, including readings with B Street company members. Buck Busfield, the B Street producing artistic director, felt it wasn’t quite ready, so the script sat awhile.

Then, out of the blue, Busfield suggested to Montoya they should put up “Love and Baseball” during a dark period for the B2 space.

Montoya jumped at the chance to mount the production, although he knew it needed some tinkering. He felt outside eyes would help most.

“I said, ‘I’m going to need an extra week with the actors, and I think that’s all I’m going to need,’ and Buck said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ ” Montoya said.

He went back to notes that Richard Hellesen, a locally based playwright, had given him after reading a draft.

“Richard gave me constructive criticism – where it was strong, where it was weak – and I looked back at that and settled on a couple of ideas on where it was weak that he had proposed, thinking, ‘If I attack these two specific things, it’ll really focus the rewrite,’ ” Montoya said.

He conceived the play in three long scenes, always feeling the first scene – the genesis – was the strongest. In rehearsal his two actors, Brittni Barger and Brian Rife, have been helpful with input that has pushed the play into form.

“Brittni asked a few questions and posed some problems, which kind of busted Scene 2 open for me,” Montoya said.

“Then Brian sent me a text saying he was thinking about something on the way home, and just reading one line – I didn’t even read the rest of it – gave me the key to make scene 3 work.”

After “Love and Baseball,” Montoya will rest awhile after the pressure of opening two shows in two weeks.

“My goal was to not only put on a good show for our audience, but to be done with the script at the end of the process,” said Montoya. “I feel as content as I ever thought I’d be with this script at this point in time.”

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

Love and Baseball

What: World premiere of Jerry Montoya’s comedy/romance. Montoya directs Brittni Barger and Brian Rife in the two-person cast.

When: Preview: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26; opens 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27; continues through Saturday, March 19, at 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 8 p.m. Saturdays

Where: B Street Theatre, B2 Space, 2727 B St., Sacramento

Cost: $15 previews; $28-$35; $5 student rush

Information: 916-443-5300, bstreettheatre.org

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