The resources of upstart Best Medicine Rep are optimized in this charming production of Robin Rothstein’s new work, Derek Jeter Makes the Play. Tucked in a corner of Lakeforest Mall, Best Medicine’s goal is to add something new to the culture of Montgomery Village and the greater Gaithersburg area. As directed by Linda Lombardi, this production showcases great acting, smart design, and effective use of the entire theater space.
Rothstein examines the relationship between twenty-somethings Jackie (Brooke Friday) and Sal (Cristian Camilo Linares) as they wrestle with the extent to which their dreams can be realized within the confines of life’s constraints, including the leaky ceiling in their Queens walk-up. Unlike their hero, Derek Jeter, whose bigger-than-life picture dominates their apartment, they are not likely to make the big time. This touching performance examines how much is enough in relationships and in life.
Jackie is expanding her horizons by learning French and strives to be the best at her chosen profession. She holds Jeter as a model of working hard to achieve your goals. Sal’s dreams are more immediate and down-to-earth, a transfer out of air conditioning into computer sales at the appliance store and spending his time with Jackie.
Lou, Jakie’s sister, played with marvelous gusto by Rebecca Herron, encourages her to move beyond her relationship with Sal and an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with the Yankees. Lou considers herself fortunate to be reaping the benefits of doing so, having married a Mets fan rather than continuing with her family’s long standing allegiance to the Yankees.
Jackie also is led to think more broadly by Paul (Eric Jones), a realtor who invites her into his upwardly mobile life, complete with a cottage by the bay on Long Beach Island in the foreign land of New Jersey.
The proximity of seating to the main scene, and the use of both the stage and surrounding floor and seating areas by the actors, brings immediacy. The ensemble successfully navigates this setup by fully inhabiting their characters. The denouement, which occurs as Derek Jeter achieves his 3,000 hits milestone, seems as anxiety-provoking to the audience as it is to Jackie, Sal, Lou, and Paul.
Technical elements underpin the effectiveness of this production. Quick shifts in sound, props, and lighting as well as the nimble choreography by stage manager Stephanie Davis, make the scenes in Jackie’s workplace, the couple’s apartment in Queens, Lou’s apartment, a coffee house, and the parking lot in Yankee Stadium equally effective.
John Morogiello is responsible for the perfectly cracked and patched wall in the apartment as well as the lighting design. Elizabeth Kemmerer designed the costumes and props and Tosin Olufolabi brought forth both the sounds of rain and shine (in the form of Yankees play-by-play).
Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.