Bang the Drum Slowly

Jan. 10—Feb. 1 $32–$40
American Century Theater at Gunston Theatre Two
2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 998-4555
Eric Simonson’s adaptation of Mark Harris' novel was first staged in the early ’90s but preserved the story’s contemporary milieu, specifically the ’56 season of the New York “Mammoths” baseball club. Our narrator, the southpaw pitcher Henry Wiggen (who was the subject of four novels by Harris), is played with no small amount of charm by Evan Crump. In this more innocent (or exploitative) era of pro sports, even sought-after players like him must work other jobs during the off-season. Wiggen sells insurance. He also negotiates his own contract with Mammoths owner “Dutch” Schnell (Craig Miller), demanding that if the Mammoths want him, they have to keep slow-witted catcher Bruce Pearson (Richie Montgomery) on the roster, too. Pearson has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is not long for this world. Wiggen contrives to keep the diagnosis under wraps, and argues that unprecedented proviso into his contract so Pearson can stay on the team long enough to die doing what he loves. The result is a sentimental tale of a team coming together, particularly once the Mammoths’ most intractable bully learns Pearson’s secret. [CK]

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