Six years ago, Patrick J. Adams completed a monthlong run in a California production of the play “The Last Match” feeling he’d been defeated by stage fright, the kind he describes as a “hard and fast level of terror.” The experience, he said, left him convinced he’d never perform onstage again.
But this spring, the Canadian actor is confidently making his Broadway debut in the acclaimed revival of “Take Me Out,” delivering a significant portion of his performance fully naked. Most of his co-stars, including “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jesse Williams, appear in the buff throughout the show, too.
“My initial instinct was that I couldn’t go from being the guy who was having panic attacks onstage to doing a naked play on Broadway,” Adams told HuffPost. “I thought: ‘That’s not going to work. I can’t do that. That’s too far.’”
“And then I read the script, and I knew instantly I had to do it. The play was too beautiful to deny, the opportunity was too great, and this group of people was too fantastic. I knew if I said no to this, I was saying no to theater for the rest of my life. It felt like an opportunity to heal a big wound.”
Written by Richard Greenberg and directed by Scott Ellis, “Take Me Out” depicts the New York Empires, a fictional Major League Baseball team. The team’s sense of camaraderie is put to the test when its sole biracial player, Darren Lemming (Williams), reveals he’s gay.
Adams, best known for playing Mike Ross on the USA Network’s legal drama “Suits,” stars as Kippy Sunderstrom, one of Lemming’s teammates and a confidant. The character also serves as the play’s narrator, initiating several conversations about the toxic masculinity, racism and homophobia embedded in America’s pastime.
The original production of “Take Me Out” debuted on Broadway in 2003. Greenberg has said that when he first wrote the play, he believed it wouldn’t be long before an active Major League player came out as gay in the real world. Nearly 20 years later, however, that still hasn’t happened.
“We live in a world where more and more people are talking ― everybody’s talking ― but we still have a really tough time coming to agreement about anything that’s difficult,” he said. “Great writers write to humanity. They write to who we are, and for better or for worse, that doesn’t change as much as we’d like it to. Over time, the play reveals to us how much work we have left to do. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much work left.”
“In rehearsals, we’d get to the shower scene and do it clothed. Then we did it in our underwear,” Adams recalled. “We always focused on what we were there to say. Once the water was the right temperature and all of that, we were like: ‘OK, we’re going to be naked today.’ It felt like a natural progression.”
The show’s creative team has gone to lengths to ensure no footage of the onstage nudity is shared online, and theatergoers are required to have their phones locked in sealed pouches before the curtain rises. Though Adams anticipated “hooting and hollering” when he and his co-stars dropped their towels before a live audience for the first time, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful response.
“People see the showers coming down and they go: ‘Oh, God, this is it.’ There’s a few gasps,” he said. “You hear a little bit of shuffling and whispering and then it’s over. We’ve all seen naked bodies before, and there’s nothing highly sexual or titillating about the scene. This is not gratuitous nudity, and it’s a beautifully written scene.”
Though Adams has joked in interviews about his real-life lack of interest in sports, he’ll be spending more time on the baseball field when he returns to television later this year. The actor has a recurring role on Amazon’s forthcoming “A League of Their Own” series, created by “Broad City” star Abbi Jacobson and inspired by the beloved 1992 film of the same name.
Adams has yet to see any of the finished series, but said the tone on set was “very different from the movie, but in a great way.”
“Abbi is a genius and cut her own path through that material,” he added. “She had a very specific reason why she wanted to make it. The women I was working with were just remarkable. I think people who love the movie will also love the show, but for completely new and different reasons.”
By all accounts, “Take Me Out” is a hit on Broadway ― no easy feat in a packed theater season that continues to grapple with COVID-19 related closures and other unexpected setbacks. Last month, it was announced that the play would extend its run by two weeks, and is now slated to wrap June 11.
And if all goes according to plan, Adams hopes “Take Me Out” will be “the first of many, many Broadway experiences.”
“Theater is part of my life again. I don’t have to be afraid of it anymore,” he said. “I’m super excited to see what’s next. I’m drawn to brilliant people and I consider myself lucky if they want me in the same room. I’m looking to be of service to great material and visionary people, if they’ll have me.”
“Take Me Out” is now playing at New York’s Helen Hayes Theatre.