Just in time for spring training, Fort Hill Players present “National Pastime,” a screwball comedy about a Depression Era radio station that broadcasts the games of the ultimate baseball dream team.
Emphasis on “dream.”
Melinda O’Brien directs “National Pastime,” which runs this weekend and next at Rochambeau School in White Plains. She says she first encountered the play a couple of years ago when her husband, Michael Muldoon, was in an Off-Broadway production of it at The Algonquin Seaport Theater, in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport area.
“I loved it when I saw it,” she says. “It’s perfect for community theater, with a big cast, and we didn’t double up any of the roles, so it has an even bigger cast.”
Things aren’t going well at radio station WZBQ. There’s a Depression on and advertising in the one-horse town in upstate New York is non-existent, except for Arnie Sullivan’s Restaurant and Delicatessen. Something’s gotta give. When the station owner’s daughter raises the idea of broadcasting baseball games, it’s shot down as too expensive. Before long, though, the station manager comes up with an idea that won’t cost a cent and only requires a little applied imagination.
“It’s quirky and cute,” O’Brien says, adding that playwright Sportiello, who is the artistic director at the Algonquin, has been generous with his time, allowing script changes and even coming to a rehearsal. He plans to attend a performance, too, which isn’t unusual, except when you consider that he’s in the middle of developing a musical version of the script, headed for his theater this spring.
“They have been working for a while on the musical and they hope, sometime, for it to come to Broadway,” O’Brien says.
“National Pastime” feels a bit like an old Kaufman and Hart show, like “You Can’t Take It With You.” Or like Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” with a smaller body count.
O’Brien says the baseball play is not her typical fare.
“I don’t usually direct shows that are OK for the entire family,” the director says with a laugh. O’Brien works with YCP Theaterworks and M&M Productions, a company she and Muldoon founded to bring plays to libraries across the Lower Hudson Valley. “I’d say this would be fine for kids age 10 and up; younger than that might be bored with the love-story aspects, but the funny stuff the kids will like.”
Love, radio and baseball: Spring must be just around the corner.
‘National Pastime,’ Fort Hill Players, Rochambeau School, 228 Fisher Ave., White Plains. Preview 8 p.m., March 15; 8 p.m., March 16, 17, 23, 24; 2 p.m. March 17. $14 for preview; otherwise $17, $14 for seniors and students; $8 for those 12 and younger. Reservations not needed. Free parking. 914-946-5143. FortHillPlayers.com