‘That’s just how baseball go,” observed the philosopher and sometime major-league manager Ron Washington. He was answering a question about the legendary random vagaries of the game that allow one team to win while another naturally loses, expressing himself with the frank poetic honesty and working-class lexicon he is so beloved for.
Or as the late major-league Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote about baseball, “It is designed to break your heart.” Though someone else’s heart is mended at the same time. Ask Giants fans – longtime Giants fans who have known the heartbreak before the mending.
Jerry Montoya’s funny, sinewy new play, “Love and Baseball,” at B Street Theatre revels in the lore of baseball and unlikely events giving the game a mystical touch. The world premiere also explores heartbreak and heart-mending in unlikely circumstances. The two-character romance hits plenty of the notes you’d expect where romance and comedy commingle, but there’s also a grit and poignancy in the vibrant story appealingly brought to life by Brittni Barger and Brian Rife.
The three-scene, one-act story starts off cute enough with Rife’s Will racing home to his messy bro-pad to watch a baseball playoff game, only to find Barger’s Michele there waiting for his roommate. They banter their way through awkwardness into flirty role-playing, and even if the wisecracks and witty rejoinders are faster than Buster Posey’s bat speed, it is smart and entertaining. The two get on so well that for a moment it looks like they’ve hit a home run in their first at-bat.
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However their lives (and the playwright’s devices) intrude. Will is a documentary filmmaker and an imminent job carries him away. Michele, an adjunct philosophy teacher, has classes to teach, which prevents her from picking up and going with him when he offers.
The two would-be lovers part with a promise. But Will oddly breaks that promise, and they don’t meet for two years. The next time they see each other, again in the same apartment, circumstances have changed considerably, though their definitive feelings for each other have not. Yet they’ll need a third meeting before they can pick up where they stopped in the beginning.
Barger gives her Michele believable strength and passion without sacrificing vulnerability or humor. Rife similarly gives Will real-world charm and guile, showing him both weak and strong, flawed and admirable.
The piece retains its droll sensibility as it deepens into an examination of love and its complications. Montoya directs his own work with perhaps too much emphasis on pace at times in lieu of the delicate intimacy the text has earned.
The writing and performances make this an easy team to root for.
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: 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
Time: 90 minutes with no intermission