George "Rube" Waddell was an old-time southpaw baseball pitcher for the Philadelphia A's around the turn of the century. He drank a lot, he philandered, he got into barroom brawls, he fled the pitching mound to join fire trucks or passing parades, and he was pretty big and dumb—hence the nickname he loathed, Rube.
In playwright (and OC Weekly theater critic) Joel Beers' new "highly fictionalized" comedy, tightly directed by Patrick Gwaltney and starring a host of over-the-top talent, we see Rube's foibles played out in snapshot-quick vignettes that include some pretty grand legend-telling: Rube bellows bathroom humor—and then tries to integrate major-league baseball; Rube cries over a broken heart—and writes the melody to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"; Rube chases fire trucks—and names the hot dog.
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Void of the usual dramatic construction and told through other characters' recollections, Rube is a scrapbook of caricatures and, from the outset, seemingly as thin. If you buy that, you have more in common with Rube than you think.
Rube is not about getting mushy over a tragic, entertaining, boorish lunkhead, but rather about existential dread. It's about the fact that no matter how much you interview, read previously written accounts or search for documented—and therefore presumably accurate—journalistic reports, no one can really know anyone: we can only know the stories a person leaves behind.
With so many baseball legends to choose from, it's a wonder Beers chose this enigmatic and forgotten hero to embody the message. But perhaps it's just the ultimate irony: philosophy wrapped in a dumbbell. Now that's heavy.
Rube at Stages, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Through Oct. 25. $12-$15.