By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The plays — “For the Record” and “Rain Delay” — were written by area playwrights Bernie Appugliese and Cheryl Lilko Games, respectively, and both will be getting their premiere as a fully staged production.
Both pieces deal with strangers searching for acceptance, forgiveness and validation through the common bond of baseball. Each is an hour long.
“For the Record” is about the relationship we have with our heroes — whom we often forget are also human. In the play, an 11-year-old boy meets his hero: a retired slugger who is accused of using a banned substance to improve his performance.
“The boy asks him, ‘Did you take the drug?,’” said Appugliese. “He’s wondering, ‘Do I have to do this also in order to be like you?’”
John Cox plays the former Chicago Cubs slugger, while the part of the boy is being split between Ben Morgan and Christian Pruitt. It’s an unusual move, and one made necessary by having two surprisingly good young actors.
“Each [of the young actors] brought a different interpretation to the character,” said Appugliese. “They’re both extremely skilled and intelligent, and John [Cox] welcomed the idea of using each one on alternating nights.”
Morgan will appear Friday, March 2 and March 8. Pruitt will appear Saturday, March 1 and March 9.
Appugliese said Cox’s presence elevated the play. “He has huge knowledge of the game and a love for it,” said Appugliese. “He fixed parts of it and fleshed it out.”
The idea for “For the Record” came to Appugliese when he was living in Chicago during the corked-bat scandal that embroiled Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa. It’s the first play he ever wrote.
The Sosa scandal captivated Appugliese, who later read the entire 409-page Mitchell Report, which probed the use of steroids in baseball. The report was issued in 2007.
Unlike “For the Record,” which takes place at a book signing at a mall, Cheryl Lilko Games’ “Rain Delay” takes place at the ballpark.
Set designer Matt White has re-created a section of seating at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where the play takes place during (what else?) a rain delay at an Indians game.
The cast includes Holly Ceci, Sam Perry and Liz Conrad. Susi Thompson is directing.
Laurie (played by Ceci) is attending the game with her girlfriend Stacy (Conrad). Her father was also with them at the game but has left after he and Laurie got into a fight — for reasons that are revealed during the game.
When it starts to rain, Stacy leaves but Laurie wants to stay, so she finds a sheltered place to wait it out. That’s where she meets an old man named Johnny (Perry). The two get to talking and strike up a connection based on similar family relationships and a shared love of baseball.
Johnny is estranged from his daughter, and Laurie has a tumultuous relationship with her father. “[Laurie] is seeking approval from her dad and sort of gets it from Johnny,” said Games, in a phone call from her California home.
The title of “Rain Delay” has an extra meaning. Other than it’s literal meaning, it’s also about what happens when you are waiting for the storms of life to subside.
Games, who is a lifelong Indians fan, said the character of Johnny was planted in her mind at a sparsely attended game 30 years ago at Municipal Stadium.
“I saw an old man at that game, sitting all by himself, eating peanuts, expressionless,” said Games. “That image really stuck with me.”
Games, who will be in town for “Rain Delay,” studied playwriting in grad school and has had her works produced in New York and Los Angeles. She currently works in the publishing industry in Los Angeles, where she also does sketch comedy and acting roles.
“Rain Delay” first surfaced at the Voices of the Valley New One Act Play Festival last year at the Youngstown Playhouse.
A workshop of the play was directed at the time by Youngstown State University theater professor Matthew Mazuroski.