Baseball doubleheader is a sweep

YOUNGSTOWN – One of the great things about baseball is they play so many games.

With football those once-a-week contests take on an exaggerated importance, and players have days to dwell on the every wrong move made in the past game.

For baseball players, nearly every day offers an opportunity to start fresh, to move on from the mistakes of the past.

Sam Perry plays a former minor league player who gets a chance to start fresh in “Rain Delay,” one of two one-acts plays by local writers currently running at the Oakland Center for the Arts.

Both Cheryl Lilko Games’ “Rain Delay” and Bernie Appugliese’s “For the Record” feature baseball, but one doesn’t have to be a fan of the sport to enjoy these two tales. As writers have done for decades, baseball simply is the setting used to explore some universal themes.

“For the Record” features a ball player making a personal appearance to hype his autobiography. The ballplayer acts like he’s written a tell-all book, but he avoids the one topic that’s currently in the news: he’s one of the athletes named in the Mitchell Report investigating the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. While most are happy to fawn over the athlete and get their book signed, one young fan shows up demanding answers.

It’s time for the ballplayer to ‘fess up or say it ain’t so.

As the ballplayer, John Cox needs no performance-enhancing drugs. In his body language and demeanor, he’s convincing as a jock who’s not used to being confronted about his behavior, especially by a child. Through his performance, the audience can feel the ballplayer wrestling with the questions he’s avoided until now.

Christian Pruitt, who is splitting the role of the boy with Ben Morgan, more than hold his own opposite the veteran Cox. This is a two-character play, and much of the dramatic burden is carried by the child. No matter how good the actor is playing the ballplayer, the play would fall apart if the younger actor can’t match his work.

Appugliese also directs his script, which has several funny moments to lighten the tone of the work.

Susi Thompson directs Games’ play, which takes place during a rain delay at a Cleveland Indians’ game. Laurie (Holly Ceci) has abandoned her father and her friend to find a dry place to wait out the weather – no way is she leaving early – and finds Johnny, an old man (Perry) sitting alone in the bleachers. Turns out the man was once a minor league ballplayer who abandoned his baseball dreams to be with his wife and family. Now his wife is dead and he’s estranged from his daughter. Laurie also is dealing with some domestic drama, and her situation gives a Johnny a second chance to evaluate his stubborn attitudes toward his daughter.

Ceci and Perry establish a natural rapport together and show the evolution of the two character’s feeling toward each other over the course of the story. And Liz Conrad adds a burst of energy and humor to the proceedings with her arrival late in the play.

“For the Record” and “Rain Delay” will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday through March 9 at the Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 W. Boardman St., Youngstown. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $10 for students. For reservations or more information, call 330-746-0404.