Chuck Faerber’s Ball Yards, a satirical look at the madness of American sports mania, takes the form of loosely related, comic sketches, that miraculously coalesce by the end. The tone is set in the opening piece when a grand kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan (John Marzilli) takes a golfing lesson given by a pro (Mike Ross) at Augusta National Golf Club dressed in full Klan regalia. The scene goes on at some length, but has a nice payoff at the end of the show.
The structure of the play introduces a number of characters scene by scene with a looseness that is a bit bewildering at first, but starts to make sense as the characters develop in subsequent sketches. Tall, impressive Christopher T. Wood turns up first as a Mayan athlete, then returns as a Brooklyn Dodger infielder, and later as a college footballer improbably named Conquistador O’Malley, who spurns football with its inevitable brain injuries and takes up Olympic style platform diving instead. He is also adorable in a green dress and heels as Condaleeza Rice, who has been touted as a prospective NFL Commissioner.
Matt Shea is a delightful ball of energy as the Poet Laureate, a congenital lover of any game with a ball. Byron Hays as Art Phlegm and John Marzilli as Irv Coolidge, a pair of loose goonies, take the stage as broadcast booth announcers at Dodgers Stadium. I really appreciated a moment when Coolidge suggests, in a crazy moment of candor, tearing down the stadium and returning Chavez Ravine to the Mexican Americans from whom it was stolen back in the late 1950s. Scott Keiji Takeda is terrific as a hyper-energetic, fast talking radio announcer who happens to be transitioning from female to male. And, when given the opportunity to sing, he produces a voice of splendid quality and impressive range.
Marissa Drammissi, after gratuitously showing up as a card girl in a marvelously skimpy bikini, scores as a self-assured Olympic field hockey star who resists an importunate, meth snorting NBC executive (Mr. Marzilli) who tries to get her to reveal anything about herself that could be used for promotion.
With a lot going on, a scattered focus, and an occasionally lumbering pace, Ball Yards tries the patience. Director Richard Kuhlman gets the most out of his talented, enthusiastic cast, and the show does indeed coalesce to a satisfying conclusion in the last half hour or so of the eighty-five minute run time. There is treasure here, but it needs refining.
Ball Yards runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm through August 27 at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.