Review: My Season with the Astros, Expos and Phillies at Hyde Park Theater – Arts
My season with the Astros, Expos and Phillies “/>
Ken Webster in My season with the Astros, Expos and Phillies (Photo by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia)
We all have concerns, obsessions and passions. But Ken Webster – actor / director / production artistic director at the Hyde Park Theater in Central Austin – also has a black box performance space and creative ways to put his athletic fixation on the page and then on the stage. His My season with the Astros, Expos and Phillies is a solo monologue about John Bateman, a run-of-the-mill pro baseball player who spent a mediocre 10 years with the Houston Colt .45s / Astros, Montreal Expos and Philadelphia Phillies in the 1960s and 1970s.
Bateman began his professional baseball career in 1962 with a team that the Sports news described as “a valley with very small peaks.” It was so bad that when rookie Bateman was voted in to the coveted cleaning job usually reserved for the team’s best hitter, he was beating below the Mendoza line – a baseball phrase named after the stoppage. -court Mario Mendoza, whose low batting average (0.200) is taken to set the threshold for incompetent hitting. Team manager Harry Craft is said to have said: “With our club, it doesn’t matter who beats there.” Bateman’s first professional batting was, as you might expect, a strikeout.
A solidly non-exceptional career hitter of .230, the perpetually overweight, often injured and playful but easy to anger, Bateman always played for losing teams, never played in the playoffs, and never did. the all-star team. A poster child for outperformance, the then Astro balloonist became a favorite for a young Webster, who wanted to be (but never was) a wide receiver and hit a .100 single on his team. of Houston Little League. Bateman, the personification of what Aristotle called hamartia, or fatally imperfect, is perfect imperfect fodder for a play.
In 2011, Webster turned his love for Bateman, his unbridled passion for baseball, and his anecdotal mindset into a popular Twitter thread, where he assumed the voice of Bateman and commented on his moments and tribulations during the season 1966. These humorous tweets became the heart of Webster’s one-man show, which was first performed in 2012. It has since appeared in abbreviated form in a few of Austin’s FronteraFests and is now receiving a staging extended as the first live Hyde Park Theater adventure. performance since the start of the pandemic.
The scripted but unstructured play takes place in the small performance space of the theater, which is bare except for a folding table, chair, and an assortment of artifacts from Webster’s personal collection – vintage Bateman baseball cards, a worn cap, an autographed ball. The lighting design is also unadorned and simply functional. The sound design is limited to a radio show of Bateman’s unlikely home run inside the park to start the show and a song sung by a Bateman teammate turned recording artist at the end of the show. Webster appears in an Astros jeans and jersey.
The low-budget simplicity of the production focuses all of the attention on Webster’s truly engaging performance, his penchant for passionate and often improvised storytelling, and his charm. This will likely be the main takeaway for members of the public who are not particularly familiar with or invested in baseball history or the Mendoza line.
For older theatergoers who also enjoy acting, their presence will be rewarded with a night of factual nostalgia. Younger fans will get a glimpse into the drama of America’s great pastime before the Astros cheat * to claim victory at the 2017 World Series.
* (Disclaimer: The Houston Astros in Bateman’s heyday, as well as the Montreal Expos and the Philadelphia Phillies, were all National League teams. The clever comment on cheating is based on the fact that this writer is a longtime AHL fan. Oh, and sorry not sorry the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros in the 2021 World Series.)
My season with the Astros, Expos and Phillies
Hyde Park Theater, 511 W. 43rd, 512 / 479-7529
Until November 20
Duration: 1 h 10 min.