The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, presented by Tuesday Night Cafe (TNC) Theatre, is the story of self-employed artist, Dana Fielding (Maria Jimenez) as she journeys through recovering her mental health. Upon being admitted to a mental hospital due to a suicide attempt, Dana discovers that her health insurance will only cover ten days in the institution. Determined not to go home, Dana enlists the help of her new friends, Gary (Aidan Dmytriw) and Michael (Antoine Guimbal) to fake a more severe diagnosis. Deciding that she will tell her doctors (Caitlin Heiligmann and Arielle Shiri) that she believes she is baseball star Darryl Strawberry, Dana uses the alternate personality to explore her own mental health and ultimately rediscover her love of painting.
Even for those who’ve never heard of Darryl Strawberry, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is a relevant commentary about the journey of mental illness and recovery, with a message that carries weight for anyone at a turning point in their lives. Under the direction of Emily Sheeran, the show explores finding your passion in a world that is constantly commodifying creations.
The cast of the show is superb, and their chemistry as an ensemble is seamless. The trio of Gary the sociopath, Dana the depressed artist and Michael the recovering alcoholic are stand out performances. While Gary and Dana are prone to emotional outbursts, Michael adds a much needed softness to the trio. Guimbal’s performance as Michael stands out from the rest, despite the character’s lack of stage time. Guimbal brilliantly portrays the struggling alcoholic with a covert emotional richness. In a highly passionate show, full of powerful angry outbursts, Guimbal’s performance is a much needed break of emotional gentleness.
Even for those who’ve never heard of Darryl Strawberry, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is a relevant commentary about the journey of mental illness and recovery, with a message that carries weight for anyone at a turning point in their lives.
What negates from the experience of the production is the often abrupt and choppy scene changes. The short scenes all end with a highly traditional black out and set change, which by the end of the show, becomes rather repetitive and takes away from its organic feeling. Sheeran’s set design is minimal, and often the extended blackouts feel unnecessary. At times, the music playing during each blackout is highly relevant to the emotional experience, but at other times it feels out of place and inappropriate.
Despite some technical issues – such as actors performing in unlit portions of the stage- the richness of the characters and the issues they represent certainly make up for some of the less desirable lighting aspects. Sheeran’s presentation of The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is a character-driven show and her directorial choices reflect that. When reflecting on her script selection for her directorial debut, Sheeran explains, “I think it especially applies now at McGill for this group of students… I think that’s a theme [mental illness] everyone can relate to, but especially students, who are truly at turning points in their lives and their careers.” The entire cast portrays the varying aspects of mental illness in a tactful, sincere way. It’s a highly accessible piece of theatre, and aside from being relevant, is also enjoyable and entertaining. The Sweetest Swing in Baseball at TNC is a home run, and a very needed theatrical experience.
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball plays at TNC Theatre October 11-13, 18-20 at 7:30 pm. October 18 also features a talk-back about the show’s themes after the show. Tickets are $6 for students and QDF members, and $10 general admission.