Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

In the early 1900s, George Edward “Rube” Waddell dominated Major League Baseball in strikeouts, which should be just enough to get your attention.  What should keep your attention is how the man spends his free time: wrestling alligators, starring on Broadway, and pulling off actual acts of heroism to save human lives.  But who is Rube Waddell?  What’s his “deal?”  One American sportswriter decides it’s time someone found out and sets his sights on making sense of the unfathomable behemoth who dominated MLB while pitching for six consecutive years.  We are subsequently treated to a series of retellings of the mythical exploits of one talented and fantastically chaotic Rube Waddell in the hopes of finally understanding him as a person.

The set is perfectly acceptable, functionally serving as a reporter’s office, a baseball diamond, a bar, and even a ballroom on one occasion.  This doesn’t mean there are a lot of scene changes though.  Except for the newspaper headlines adorning the walls and small tables placed to the right and left of the stage, the space in front of us is mostly clear and waiting for the actors’ performances to bring the setting(s) to life.

The cast consists of many strong actors, but I would be remiss in not congratulating the director for casting Brock Joseph in the role of Rube, whose performance is both inspiring and endearing.  With his simplistic charm and very human trials, you root to see him triumph from the moment he appears.  Thanks to both his demeanor and his breadth, Joseph is the physical embodiment of the strong man who doesn’t know his own strength.

At times some of the actors seem anxious, and very infrequently the philosophical waxing of some of the other characters seem pedantic and pointless.  However, for the most part, the cast does a good job of creating this world of what “might have been” going on inside and outside of this very peculiar man.

The plot of the story sashays from exciting, to amusing, to sad and then back to exciting.  There’s a lot going on in Rube’s life. Throughout it all, one can’t help but wonder how much of it is true.  With all of his ridiculous feats, eccentric behavior, and enviable talent, Rube Waddell seems more fairly compared to the likes of Paul Bunyan and John Henry than Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle.  Yet here we are.  The man actually existed, and we have tangible evidence that he did at least SOME of the things mentioned in RUBE!.  Either way, it makes for one heck of a story.

September 20 – September 29,2019

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