Baseball and bugs fuel Silicon Valley dreams in SJ Rep’s ‘Game On’

Vinnie (Marco Baricelli) and Alvin (Craig Marker) dream of bug and baseball glory in "Game On" at San  Jose Rep. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Vinnie (Marco Barricelli) and Alvin (Craig Marker) dream of bug and baseball glory in “Game On” at San Jose Rep. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

The world of fantasy sports is all-consuming, and that’s putting it mildly. Drafts, stats, sabermetrics and some friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) wagering turn sports fans into sports maniacs. Pulling for your team used to be the name of the game. But the new world of fandom has everything to do with pulling for players. Hatin’ yourself some Tom Brady? Not if he’s starting for your fantasy team. How about Alex Rodriguez, the guy fans deride with names like “PayRod” and “A-fraud.” Do you also hate that guy? Not if he’s starting for your team. Going 4-for-5 with three doubles and a homer gives you some extra swag going into October.

This is certainly the case for Alvin and Vinnie, who share two passions – fantasy baseball and the protein provided by bugs.

They are strange bedfellows certainly, but in their fast-paced world of Silicon Valley, dreams of fantasy baseball glory and transformative inventions fuel the daily grind. An ultra-swanky Los Altos dinner party is where their startup begins in earnest, where a foundation hosting the dinner is looking for the perfect “Green” project. Alvin worked on Wall Street during a particularly prosperous time, but recently, he is on the outside looking in. This new project born amongst the caviar is what will hopefully take Alvin from zero to multibillionaire overnight.

Game On,” the new show written by Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s artistic director Tony Taccone and co-writer Dan Hoyle, explores these two worlds. In the Bay Area theatre world, the show is a collaboration between two heavyweights – Taccone and San Jose Rep’s artistic director Rick Lombardo. For Taccone, this is the first time his written work has traveled outside of Berkeley Rep, having produced his two other works at the company he presides over.

Silicon Valley, with its big money and go-for-broke spirit blends beautifully with the world of fantasy sports. It’s a place Taccone knows very well, having played in 12 fantasy baseball leagues in the past, winning four of them.

“That was part of my early life, and I probably gave it up about ten years ago,” said Taccone. “It takes up too much time, and a lot of time to do it well. When you find yourself going over the transaction boxes at 7 am, you know where your priorities are in life.”

Craig Marker, who plays Alvin, also grew up a huge baseball fan, and having been born in Seattle, considers himself a diehard Mariners fan. He recalls a time in 2003 when he worked with Taccone at Berkeley Rep, and Taccone implemented a most unusual rehearsal technique, which meant that the whole cast watched the world series between the New York Yankees and Florida Marlins.

“Rooting for the Yankees was a gift from my father, and you never turn down a gift from your father,” said Taccone.

For Marker’s character, the dinner party he and Vinnie attend has humongous repercussions.

“This dinner party is a way for him to get back into game in the Wall Street world,” said Marker.

What is exciting for Marker is the ability to look at these two very theatrical worlds and create a new show with both Lombardo and Taccone.

“Rick’s the best I’ve come across for new plays, especially how he nurtures process, seeing the actor’s point of view, and hears the playwright and their voice,” said Marker. “He really brings both sides together to express what an actor is feeling and sharing the writer’s view.

“Tony is right there in room to say ‘Here s why this is there,’ or will say ‘You’re right,’ and give you a rewrite on the spot. Tony’s also a director and artistic director, and knows staging and how it should look. There hasn’t been a bashing of egos since both are artistic directors and developers of new work. It’s been a very good process.”

This play has given Taccone a chance to explore more in-depth the world of fandom, which allows people to leave behind the world they inhabit for a few hours and dive head first into something else.

“A world I was interested in is what guys who watch a lot of sports do with that,” said Taccone. “The passion for a game distracts us from everything else in the world. It’s a great distraction that relieves us from the day-to-day trauma and suffering we have to face.

“Their fantasy league represents what fandom is all about, and there’s a kind of wonderfulness about that. It’s kind of a big party and that was one circle of social interchange we wanted to capture.”

One of the most interesting things about the collaboration between Lombardo and Taccone was how they worked on a show about baseball despite their respective team’s passionate rivalry. Taccone is a diehard man of the Yanks, while Lombardo’s baseball passion is for the Boston Red Sox. When questioned if their team loyalties ever came up during their time working together, Taccone was succinct.

“Don’t go there dude.”

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

San Jose Repertory Theatre presents “Game On”
Written by Tony Taccone and Dan Hoyle
Directed by Rick Lombardo
Through April 19th
Tickets range from $29 – $74
The Susan and Phil Hammer Theatre Center
101 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA 95113
For tickets, call (408) 367-7255 or visit www.sjrep.com

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