A compelling story of baseball, love and hope at MRT
By Richard Budd
Tinker, Evers, and Chance are legendary in baseball circles. The power infield trio honed the double play into an art form for the Cubs in the early 1900s. It’s been a long time since the Cubs had such a well-oiled machine at their disposal, yet season after season Cubs fans keep the faith.
New England sports fans know a thing or two about keeping the faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds when it comes to baseball, so it comes as no surprise that Tinker to Evers to Chance should be one of director Sean Daniels’ first choices to tackle for the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
Boldly declaring it “the best sports play there is,” Daniels says the story spotlights a young woman named Lauren and her mother Nessa’s intergenerational passion for the Chicago Cubs, providing glimpses into the lives of both Nessa and famous shortstop Joe Tinker himself in an examination of family, love of the game, and the redeeming power of baseball.
Daniels, an avid baseball fan, was taken with Mat Smart’s play the first time he read it.
“You have to be the ultimate romantic to be a sports fan,” Daniels says. “Regardless of all the information that you’re told, you still believe that this year could be your year.”
But there’s much more to this tale than America’s favorite pastime.
“It’s a relationship play, like all great plays are,” Daniels explains. “I think that even if you’re not into baseball, you can always love that there’s a common interest or a hobby that brings two people together for their lifetime.”
Daniels has a personal experience on that front, having grown up in Washington, D.C., with a father who was a passionate D.C. sports fan. Daniels and his dad had a ritual.
“When we would go to Washington sports events, apparently my grandfather had a heart condition, so [my father and he] would have to stop on each level for him to catch his breath as they were going up,” Daniels says. “So even though he had passed away in 1973, when I went with my father we would still stop on every level going up, since that’s what he had done as a kid.”
That sense of ritual is key in Tinker to Evers to Chance, where baseball becomes a great metaphor for life.
“There’s only like five small things that drastically change the outcome of what happens, and that’s how life is,” Daniels says. “There are people you meet, parties you go to where you meet your future spouse, that seem very small at the time but drastically change the outcome of what is — the same as a ball rolling between someone’s legs in a game, and the inning isn’t over, and somebody scores, and that drastically changes the way a city feels about itself.”