Arts & Entertainment



Before Free Agency, The Home of the Free Inspired ‘Matty’ & Co.




"Matty," a play performed by one actor though hardly a one-character play, has just opened at the Lambs Theatre on West 44th Street. Written by, and starring, Eddie Frierson, it is a double rarity. For one thing, it is a one-actor play which manages to be highly theatrical, dramatizing rather than narrating; for the other, it is a play set in a different era than ours which nevertheless has much to say by inference to our own.

Frierson has dramatized the story of Christy Mathewson, Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916. He has certainly done his research, not only into Mathewson’s life but also into his sport and era. The result is a fascinating portrait of a time when, shall we say, ballplayers were a different breed than today’s self-centered, pampered millionaires. Frierson has chosen to dramatize the great hurler’s life and times by creating a kaleidoscope of unforgettable characters. There’s hard-driving, ruthless, acid-tongued John McGraw, the Giants’ manager, one of the greatest baseball geniuses ever. There is hapless Fred Merkle, whose so-called "boneheaded" base-running cost the Giants the pennant and forever labeled this gifted player "Bone-Head" Merkle (in fact, this is when this epithet was coined). There is a gallery of umpires, gamblers, sports writers — and Frierson plays them all. It’s like there’s a 50-character play going on up there. He even briefly does Mathewson’s wife who, when asked during spring training by a prying sportswriter what it’s like living with a man with no vices, who doesn’t drink or swear, coyly replies, "Why, sir — what makes you think I’d be married to such a prude?"

"Matty" is an inspiring evening of theatre, managing to be about more than "mere baseball," with much to say to our own hyper-cynical time. Don’t be deterred if this city’s Cultural Ayatollahs are less than enthusiastic. They don’t care about sports and they don’t care for writing which celebrates such old-fashioned, naive things as principles.

"Matty." Lamb’s Theatre, 130 W. 44th St., Call 239-6200

*This review was published September 12, 1996. The above phone number is no longer valid.