This play by Ed Schmidt imagines a meeting between baseball great Jackie Robinson, actor Paul Robeson, boxer Joe Louis, entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in 1947. Opening day of the major league baseball season is a week away, and Rickey is calling a news conference to announce that Robinson will break the color barrier. His hope is that Louis and the other black celebrities of the day will attend in a show of support.
From Chris Jones' review: There's a moment in the terrific new show at Lookingglass Theatre when Branch Rickey throws a baseball uniform into the arms of Jackie Robinson (richly played by Javon Johnson). Robinson's face first registers pride, then fear. He will be a symbol and will be fought over. Robinson will get everything he wants, and lose himself in the process.
What it says on the subject: "I thought I knew this play going in," said director J. Nicole Brooks. "I'm a black woman, what can it say to me about race? But there are so many code switches, that's something that was a discovery."
Meaning that, there are one white man and four black men in the room, and the play allows these characters to reveal themselves in different ways.
"When the white man is not in the room there are these conversations between these guys who are so used to wearing these personas, and these masks," Brooks said. "Because they have to, because they've been trained to. They have to figure out when they can turn the light on or keep it off."
More important is the lesson that "everything comes at a cost," Brooks said. "It wasn't easy. The fact that we can come to the United Center for a basketball game and sit side by side and there's not a race riot, that's because of men like Jackie Robinson."
Details: Through Feb. 19 at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave.; $20-$68 at 312-337-0665 or lookingglasstheatre.org