By Lorraine Wardle
With snow on the ground and temperatures in the 30s, baseball probably is the furthest thing from everyone’s mind.
In the midst of this wintry weather, the Oakland Center for the Arts introduces two baseball-themed short plays that are sure to warm audiences’ hearts, whether baseball fans or not.
Billed as a “Doubleheader,” the Oakland has presented the world premieres of two original plays by local playwrights Bernie Appugliese and Cheryl Games. The two plays have more than baseball in common. Each focuses on relationship-building and character growth and acceptance.
The first play, “For the Record,” was written and directed by Appugliese. The play centers on a retired baseball player and his young fan. John Cox plays the congenial former baseball great who looks back at his past fondly. His confident self-image is shaken by a boy, played perfectly by Christian Pruitt, who questions his hero’s integrity.
Appugliese’s script is light and witty, full of quick banter and steady pacing. Appugliese has a great sense for dialogue as his characters’ conversation moves through emotional highs and lows, flowing from serious to humorous and back.
Cox is a seasoned pro who embodies Appugliese’s baseball player perfectly. Pruitt is a talented newcomer whose excitement at meeting his hero — and perhaps at acting in his first major role — exudes through his performance.
The second play of the evening is “Rain Delay,” written by Games and directed by Susi Thompson. “Rain Delay” takes place at a Cleveland Indians home game in the midst of a sudden downpour. When Laurie takes shelter in some covered bleachers, she meets Johnny, and the two develop a friendship. Each helps the other come to terms with some unrest in their lives — she with her father and he with his daughter.
Games’ script is realistic and touching. Her characters feel like real, normal people with complex lives. The audience is drawn into their conversation and empathizes with them both.
Holly Ceci plays Laurie with energy and vigor. Sam Perry’s Johnny is sympathetic and genuine. Liz Conrad finishes the cast with a sweet portrayal as Laurie’s girlfriend, Stacy.
The set design by Matthew White and Appugliese worked perfectly for the two plays. The set was simple enough to fit two different plays and evoked the world of baseball with portraits of former players and memorabilia.
“For the Record/ Rain Delay” continues Friday, Saturday, March 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. at the Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 W. Boardman St. For reservations, call 330-746-0404.