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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Theater Review: New York Mets

The nearly 150-year-old “national pastime,” as baseball continues to bill itself despite indications of declining popularity relative to other sporting endeavors, still has some surprises lurking in its venerable bones, none more unpredictable than those the New York Mets unveiled to a largely disapproving audience at PNC Park Wednesday night.

The cast of the New York Mets has weathered attrition and defections (some more spiritually damaging and some less permanent than others) since their glorious Broadway run of last fall. Talent is evident in certain key roles, while others are filled by game but frankly overmatched journeymen performers. Recent stagings have brought into question the staying power of the entire enterprise, but June 2016 is hardly the first month and year when the Mets have been written off as a fabulous invalid taking its overdue final bow.

Sparkling scenery and classic costuming augured well for a sumptuous production. If nothing else, ticketholders could look past any impending Met shortcomings and admire the Pittsburgh-designed set. A bridge…a river…a skyline. PNC Park was, as always, dressed to the nines. Its on-field inhabitants, unfortunately, did not always live up to the atmosphere.

Noah Syndergaard, as the Mets’ starting pitcher, swung and missed at the hype that materialized ahead of his appearance on the banks of the Allegheny. It’s not that Mr. Syndergaard was fully ineffective in the lead role. To the contrary, the longer Mr. Syndergaard (or “Thor,” as the press agents prefer he be identified) stayed in the spotlight, the more comfortable he appeared. It was the time he required to reach his comfort zone that seemed to doom the Mets’ aspirations for the evening.

Mr. Syndergaaard’s antagonist, newcomer Jameson Taillon, may have also suffered from a case of overwrought advance notices. Mr. Taillon certainly showed promise, but has yet to express the verve and panache necessary to sustain an above-the-marquee presence so necessary in this star-driven box office era.

In a sense, Mets at Pirates was an understudy’s gala, with the unlikely character of the rookie third baseman, played by little-known Ty Kelly, rescuing the first act with a display of power clearly at odds with the script’s prevailing narrative arc. There was no hint that Mr. Kelly — whose name was familiar only to those whose Playbills were properly supplemented with squares of white paper alerting the audience to his existence — had such a forceful outburst in him, but proponents of baseball will always default to their pastime’s capacity to jar as explanation for such illogical turns of event.

Despite crowd-pleasing moments in the mold of Mr. Kelly’s brief showstopper, Mets at Pirates was plagued by potentially climactic scenes that fizzled prematurely. The worst offender stepped to the fore late in the third act in the “Runners on Base” number. Michael Conforto, a featured player of whom much is expected (but from whom little has been delivered recently), struck a blow for scintillating drama with his own version of what Mr. Kelly had brought forth earlier. The waters of the Allegheny had surely been roiled and the Mets were poised to make the most of it.

Or so the most basic tenets of scriptwriting would have it. Following Mr. Conforto’s curtain call-worthy swing for the fences, his castmates proceeded to stand on each visible base. An anxious orchestra section, forged into common cause with the patrons in the upper balcony, braced for decisive action. Yet literally nothing happened. The Mets slipped off the stage and into darkness, leaving all puzzled as to the purpose of the cumbersome buildup.

Another disappointment came in the form of the prodigal son character, convincingly if ineffectually portrayed by Neil Walker. Mr. Walker, a Pittsburgh native, was the focus of the spotlight for much of the evening, yet proved unequal to the attention. Perhaps a stage packed with less pressure (ironically, he has excelled in New York) will revive his suddenly flagging abilities.

Ultimately, the Mets will be the Mets, another of those shibboleths Metropolitan apologists rely upon to rationalize convoluted plots that are sorted almost neatly at the last possible juncture. Wednesday night it fell to Wilmer Flores, best remembered for his emotion-riddled summer stock performance in 2015, to create a path home. No “Tears of Joy” this time from Mr. Flores, another of those Mets who has unfortunately made his 2016 encore something more resembling a chore than a delight. Director Terry Collins nevertheless cobbled together a pedestrian resolution, that of an almost mundane pinch-hit bloop single. It may not have been an artistic triumph, but at least the bases didn’t go unloaded again.

After Mr. Flores fulfilled his obligation to Mr. Collins’s less than fresh vision, the final theatrical flourish belonged to the closer (a part reprised, per usual, by Jeurys Familia). The Met director doesn’t believe in simple endings, but after perhaps a bit too much kerfuffle on the part of the opposing Pirates, he and his cast did produce a happy one.

It may not have been what Pittsburgh wanted, but Mets aficionados couldn’t help but grudgingly offer their applause for a result that would inevitably read as bright and bouncy in the next morning’s box score.

19 comments to Theater Review: New York Mets

  • Greg Mitchell

    “Hair” raising start (Thor) and finish, indeed.

  • Eric

    Losing 4 starts in a row by Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Syndergaard would have been disillusioning.

  • Oh how this team keeps dragging us back in. I briefly considered following your advice:
    But then I thought what if I miss Noah’s no-hitter? That being quickly dispensed with, I almost switched away after it was 2-0, given the dismal DH results. But I just couldn’t seem to stop watching, not sure exactly why, and was ultimately rewarded. Not before some bullpen torture that would make a Marine blush, of course. This type of game is why we Mets fans are so masochistic. We figure it’s always hiding right around the next inning. Great never-say-die win last night! Let’s hope that the Brewers have the cure for what ails us and another round of Wilmer Flores magic kicks his teammates into 4th gear at least.

  • NYM 25

    Well written review your assistant can now hold her head high at the water cooler.

  • mikeski

    I would like to donate $5 to the Shave John Jaso’s Stupid Head Foundation.

  • Gary Arne

    Nice to see a few bats come alive (finally) against the Pirates last night, especially Conforto. Ty goes yard! Pretty surprising as he looks like a high school player. Lets hope he continues to hit at this level. Our big worry now — and perhaps Sandy Alderson’s too)– has to be Jeurys Familia. He turns nearly every save opportunity into a nail biter with walks and line drive hits and outs. I hope the Mets are seriously thinking about bolstering the bullpen with another closer (hint hint Yankees have 3 closers). If not, maybe Wheeler can fill in for late innings to strengthen his arm for the starting rotation until Familia can hopefully get back on track.

  • Seth

    I found myself watching the game and repeatedly muttering “and again and again and again and again…” But somehow they pulled this one out of the dumper.

  • open the gates

    Ty Kelly – every time I hear his name, I think of a cross between Ty Cobb and Kelly Johnson. Anyway, now that we got the other Kelly back, I’m glad that Ty had at least one Signature Met Moment before he leaves for parts unknown. Somewhere, Omir Santos and Taylor Teagarden are smiling.

  • Matt in Richmond

    A thrilling victory for sure, withTC pushing all the right buttons as usual. I’m curious as to what theory those who blamed Familia’s struggles on overuse and being put in non save situations have to explain his wildness last night. Was that somehow TC’s fault as well? It was a 1 run game, he hadn’t pitched in several days. Here’s a crazy notion, maybe sometimes players struggle and it’s not the managers fault.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Note: When you get “overused” the effects can (and often do) linger–with tired or sore arms, obviously. No way to prove, of course, but many elite relievers burn out for a year, or a few months, and then bounce back. Too early to say re: Familia. But if your arm is a bit tender, getting 3 days off doesn’t really solve.

  • Paul Schwartz

    Because there’s not a like button here I have to write this.
    As usual Matt in Richmond is right on the mark,
    How did such a smart, logical person ever become a Met fan?

  • NostraDennis

    Has Jeurys Familia become the new Doug Sisk?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Somewhere in Pittsburgh, someone is posting this on a Pirates blog:
    Three times, we get the lead, and three times we give it away. Then, we get three walks in the 10th inning and can’t push across the tying run. How does Clint Hurdle keep his job?

  • Dave

    Is that what the boys from the papers were saying at Sardi’s after the show? Is this Kelly going to see his name in lights?

  • John

    “Verve and Panache” AND “bright and bouncy”?

    Someone’s been watching Odd Couple reruns!