Talkin' Baseball and Titans & Tall Tales, Raven Theatre. The "titans" portion of this baseball-themed evening is a collection of tributes to diamond legends, adapted from a book by Kevin Nelson and presented in overlapping monologues and vintage-slide projection. The list of those profiled--Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Bill Veeck, Willie Mays, and Mark Fidrych--reflects the show's preference for character and anecdote over history and statistics, which helps keep it from devolving into a live-action newsreel. And the pacing, warmth, and delivery of this crack storytelling ensemble make a form that can seem stilted and talky look easy. Adapter-director Michael Menendian also deserves credit for selecting accessible yet somewhat surprising tidbits: Swaggering fat guy Ruth was actually in good shape until the twilight of his career. All's-fair competitor Cobb made a small fortune on the stock market after he retired (figures). Veeck and Larry Doby were neck and neck with Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson in breaking the color line.
Second up is Mitch Coleman's Talkin' Baseball. Taking Fidrych's famous on-mound cajoling of the ball as his point of departure, Coleman asks: What if the ball started speaking to the pitcher? And had powers? Again the cast shine, especially in their comedic timing (led by Leif Olsen as ill-starred hurler Carl Woodley), and the script has a fair number of sharp comic turns. But Woodley's refusal to accept his good fortune eventually grows wearisome, and the twist ending to Coleman's drawn-out conceit shows up a little late.