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A View from the Cliff: “Damn Yankees” is Darn Good at RTC

The house is full. The crowd is eager. The game starts any minute. No. Not the World Series. It’s even better. A certain Shoeless Joe will lead his ragtag lineup against the blockbuster team of the last century. You know. Those “Damn Yankees!”

Director John Gilleece in his 1950s Washington Senators uniform leads the audience in “Take me out to the Ballgame.” Producer Susan Jasper has assembled a hard hitting group of terrific performers. On this Saturday night, we are treated to the joys and jinxes of American baseball fanatics. In the end, we are reminded that our loyalties run deeper than just balls and strikes.

Basically, old timer Joe Boyd (well played by community theater veteran David Risley) has made the deal of a lifetime. He sells his soul to a certain Mr. Applegate (a very funny, mischievous spin by John Panepinto). Of course, there are plenty of complications before the ink is dry on this devilish contract.

Joe’s wife, played by Jodee Timpone, gives a poignant performance as his long-suffering but devoted spouse. Joe Hardy is the magically transformed star athlete played by Daniel Velez. He succeeds as the home run-hitting slugger in this youthful re-embodiment.

But his old soul refuses to abandon his home and values. Of course, Lola, who is wily Applegate’s ace player, has some deceptive curves of her own. Interpreted by beautiful Katherine Robinson, she is a heck-of-a singer, dancer and actor. Well done!
Community favorite Cliff Hesse as grizzled old timer Van Buren is one of the many fine supporting players. The magnificently motley men who portray the undaunted Washington Senators have cleared the fences with their undaunted enthusiasm.

A dozen kids and many more adults too numerous to acknowledge by name all take their best swings for the team. The orchestra, led by Richard Louis-Pierre keeps the bright pace all evening with “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Ya Gotta Have Heart!” and other unforgettable musical favorites. Kudos to choreographer Nicola Nellen, assistant director Susan Warren Corning, stage manager Nora Meyers, the special effects team and the set design/construction crew.

The Rockaway Theatre Company performs at the NPS Gateway National Recreation Area at old Fort Tilden. For information on this and future productions call (718) 374-6400 or surf to www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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