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In Search of Theatre and Art at a Marlins Game

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You may think that there's an appreciable difference in going to see a play at Actors Playhouse or GableStage and going to catch a ballgame at Marlins Park. But you'd be wrong. Mostly. A Miami Marlins game is every bit as much theatre as something written by Tracy Letts or Stephen Sondheim. Except that at the ballpark you can eat a hotdog and wash it down with an ice-cold beer, which pretty much invalidates all other arguments.

Still, I set myself to find out anyway. I attended the Marlins second-ever home game at their new digs to find its artistic and theatrical merits, and catch their inaugural Friday Night Live postgame show.

Just past the mosaic walkways that glimmer like shards of broken glass are 10-foot reproductions of the letters that spelled out Miami Orange Bowl from the old stadium. Scattered haphazardly as if they fell from the sky after the OB was blown up, it's the first glimpse of Marlins Park art that catches my attention as I make my way in. It's a tad pretentious, but it's a cool little tribute. Arty!

Upon entering the stadium, I approach a sharply dressed young man standing in front of the elevators. A laminated badge lazily hangs from his neck, which makes him an official stadium person. I ask if there are any pre-game festivities going on. He checks his itinerary and notifies me that there's a pre-game party on the western plaza featuring the Energy Team, and a DJ. I ask him to point the way. He hesitates and scans his paper before telling me that the western plaza is just outside the dugout area. He has no fucking idea where he's sending me. I'll find it, I tell him. I go to the dugout area where another official person tells me to exit the park and walk around the outside pavilions where I'll find this party so I can get jiggy with it. So I walk around the entire stadium. No party. Is the western plaza even a real thing?

I make my way up an unassuming walkway, and finally find the party, which is just a table nudged up in a corner with a DJ and some guy with a microphone handing out hula-hoops. You know, for kids. It's a major letdown. But I'm undeterred.

I find myself in the Promenade level, where the good seats are located. I look to catch the players stretching and warming up, and there it is. Amidst a field of bright emerald green stretching out into a sweeping diamond stands the colossally trippy monstrosity from out of Timothy Leary's worst flashbacks -- Red Groom's homerun sculpture, looking completely out of place over the left center field wall. It's a garishly glorified carnival attraction with oscillating marlins, dancing flamingos, swaying palm trees, and flashing colored light bulbs. A creature from the tackiest lagoon ever, waiting to light up and belch water into the air after every Marlins homerun. And, truth be told, that ugly piece of shit actually grew on me as the game progressed. It had me rooting for a Marlins batter to hit a dinger like never before, just to watch the monster spin and whirl and spit out its psychedelic gaudiness onto us all.

On the same level, hanging above the Burgers 305, is a multi-dimensional funhouse image of some of the best moments in Marlins history. It's designed in such a way that as you walk past it, each moment moves and subtly follows you. Supercilious? Oh yes. And quite awesome.

In the middle of the sixth inning, the Energy Team sprints out onto the field and puts on something quite theatrical. They dance to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing." I think I might be the only one in the stadium who can name the tune. There's a lot of flipping, cartwheels and gyrations, matching the song's belting Big Band rhythms. And it's pretty fantastic. And, energetic!

Fifteen minutes after the game ends, the stadium lights are turned down and smoke billows from the tiny crimson-lit stage hastily erected in the second base area for the first of their Friday Night Live concerts. Latin Grammy Award winner and reggaeton pioneer Daddy Yankee is here to perform his 2004 smash hit "Gasolina."

He's wearing shades and haughtily meandering about the stage as if he's performing to a sold out arena, when there's actually about 800 people remaining.

The stadium's acoustics are atrocious. Whatever Daddy Yankee says or sings is a garbled mess of echoes and reverb. I manage to make him out saying "Lemme see de camera! Flash photo! Flash photo!" I think that's what he's saying. Musical tastes aside, the show is abysmal because it's mostly incoherent. This is not a venue for live music. Still, the homerun sculpture's bulbs are lit up in the background, a myriad of red and purple lights twirling in circles in the darkness, which is cool since no Marlins player went yard in the game.

Look for the full version of this article in this week's issue.

You can go in search of theatre and art and catch the Marlins play ball as well at Marlins Park (501 Marlins Way). Tickets range from $13-$95. Visit miami.marlins.mlb.com for schedule and additional info.

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