For Little Leaguers everywhere during the 1980s, Darryl Strawberry was the model of raw athletic perfection. We dreamed of matching the posterized profile of Strawberry in his pre-swing coil: thin 6'6" frame, right knee tucked nearly to the waist, hands cocked level with the blue-and-orange letters stamped across his gray Mets jersey, eyes glaring into the soul of the terrified opposing pitcher just before unleashing a swing that would drive a baseball farther than should be humanly possible.
But fame's a bitch, and Strawberry's dip into alcohol, drugs, prostitution and wife-beating was as archetypal for celebrities as his swing was for tee-ballers. It was also perfect fodder for playwright Rebecca Gilman, whose quirky comedy, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, previews tonight at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
Directed by Wendy Goldberg, the piece tells the fictional story of celebrated painter Dana Fielding. When her new show tanks and her boyfriend dumps her, Fielding heads to a mental institution for refuge. To pull off her schizophrenic performance, she pretends to be Darryl Strawberry, a man whose self-help book she has read but about whose baseball career she knows next to nothing. She takes on a manlier manner of speech and stance and gleans the slugger's statistics from fellow patients, along the way discovering the skills needed to survive life in the limelight.
Curtain is at 8 p.m. The show officially opens on April 12 and runs through May 26; for details, visit www.denvercenter.org or call 303-893-4100.
April 5-May 19