First Stage

“Jackie (Robinson) and Me”

A boy touches a baseball card and travels back in time to meet the first African-American player in Major League Baseball.

By - Apr 16th, 2013 12:20 am
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1952 Berk Ross Jackie Robinson card.

1952 Berk Ross Jackie Robinson card.

1953 Topps Jackie Robinson card.

1953 Topps Jackie Robinson card.

Determination and courage face off against racial barriers in Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Dan Gutman’s novel, Jackie and Me.  The play looks back at 1947, as Jackie Robinson breaks the color bar and becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball.

Jeff Frank directs a magnificent cast of adults and two children’s casts. First Stage transformed the Todd Wehr Theatre into a baseball hall of fame and, throughout the show, into a baseball stadium. With the larger than life baseball bats and kids selling 50/50 raffle tickets before the show and during intermission, you will feel like you’re at Miller Park.

The play begins with Joey, played by John Brotherhood in the “Monarch” cast. He’s a youngster with a special power: When he holds a vintage baseball card, he magically transports to the time of the player on the card. Jackie Robinson’s card, naturally, takes him back to Brooklyn in 1947, where he can find out more about his baseball idol, the subject of his report for history class.

Landing in the Dodgers’ office, Joey witnesses Dodger general manager Branch Rickey (Alexander Pawlowski) and Jackie Robinson (Chauncy Thomas) signing the deal that brought Robinson to the big leagues. Rickey tests Robinson’s temper, to make sure he can hold it together as he faces the enmity of teammates, opponents and fans.

Seth Horne (L) plays Joey, a 21-century kid whose magical baseball card takes him back in time to visit Jackie Robinson (Chauncy Thomas). Photo credit Mark Frohna.

Seth Horne (L) plays Joey, a 21-century kid whose magical baseball card takes him back in time to visit Jackie Robinson (Chauncy Thomas). Photo credit Mark Frohna.

Joey, a white kid, sought to know what living in Robinson’s time as an African-American would have been like. Joey gets a little more than he bargained for in that, but I won’t spoil the surprise. Brotherhood gave a solid portrayal of this boy’s struggles as he learns lessons of life from his adventure in Brooklyn, as Joey and Jackie work together as a team to support each other at the beginning of Jackie’s groundbreaking career.

Jackie and Me truthfully depicts the state of race relations in those times. First Stage’s play is bigger than baseball, as it instructs Joey (and the rest of us) about the challenges African Americans — even an African-American baseball star — faced in mid-century.

First Stage’s production of Jackie and Me, adapted by Steven Dietz, runs through May 5 at the Todd Wehr Theater. Tickets start at $14 and can be purchased online or at (414) 273-7206.

Categories: Theater

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