Sports and Past Times

Radio Golf lands a little short; at Deuce, it's fault, McNally

Inevitably, Tiger Woods's name gets tossed about in Radio Golf. Deuce, too, drops the names of the African-American athletes who blazed a trail for the integration of that other once whites-only sport, tennis: Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, the Williams sisters. Terrence McNally's script, like Wilson's, is wisely evenhanded in acknowledging the goods and bads of past versus present. But the script's wisdom, like the similarity, regrettably ends there. Nobody is better than McNally at spicing up a laggard scene with a quick volley of verbal badinage, but Deuce gives the overall effect of a laconic, faintly perfunctory chat about what tennis was vis-à-vis what it's become, by two retired champions, themselves once trailblazers in giving women equal stature in a game where they, like blacks, were once distinctly second-class citizens.

This old Hill: Tonya Pinkins and Harry Lennix in Radio Golf
photo: Carol Rosegg
This old Hill: Tonya Pinkins and Harry Lennix in Radio Golf

Details

Radio Golf
By August Wilson
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street
212-239-6200

Deuce
By Terrence McNally
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Street
212-239-6200

The play's thinness is heightened by the casting that made its production on a Broadway scale possible: Two distinctly unretired champions of acting, Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes, play the two retirees. Apart from speakable lines varied by an occasional laugh, McNally hasn't given them much to work with: a little backstory, a bit of update, one or two minuscule revelations. More boisterous chat by two sportscasters occasionally interrupts the stars' remarks (they're ostensibly guests of honor in the stadium at a women's singles match). Occasionally there are interventions by an autograph hound with a fanatical interest in women's tennis—his autograph book, inherited from his father, gives McNally easy cues to riffle through the sport's history. The character also serves intermittently as a narrator, though there's no particular event to narrate. It's best to think of Deuce as a sort of tennis players' telephone book, read by two beloved artists whom you'd gladly pay to hear reading almost anything. Advantage, the ladies.

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