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 The Theatreguide.London Review


The Sweetest Swing in Baseball
Royal Court Theatre, Spring 2004

In Rebecca Gilman's new play Gillian Anderson plays Dana, a burned-out and suicidal painter who finds a mental hospital so comfortable that, with the aid of fellow patients, she fakes a more serious disorder - the fantasy that she is baseball player Darryl Strawberry - so that she can stay in.

Ironically, she feels better as Darryl and even begins painting again, so that when she's released she continues happily as Darryl, except for the bother of having occasionally to pretend to be Dana to keep others happy.

It's a harmless enough little play, and will probably give you a few chuckles with its wit, but it doesn't really have much to say.

Aside from the cliche and fallacy that the mad are saner than the rest of us - along with Dana's adventure,  most of the author's strongest thoughts are given to the one true loony in the hospital - it does make some sharp but not particularly new comments about success and celebrity, and what the rest of us really feel about the stars we create and destroy.

Gillian Anderson (yes, she of The X Files) does a nice job with the character who may be madder - and therefore, in the author's view, saner - than she realises, presenting the pre-hospital Dana as so frozen by fear of failure that she can hardly carry on a conversation, then having fun with her awkwardness at pretending to believe she's someone she has hardly heard of, and then letting us see her growing comfort with the new identity, to the point that she hardly knows how to be Dana anymore.

The rest of the cast double as characters from the outside world - art dealer, boyfriend, etc. - and from the hospital - patients and shrinks - with John Sharian scoring points for the author as an amiable and insightful homicidal maniac.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Sweetest Swing in Baseball - Royal Court 2004