#7. When I decide to take a job, I assess the basics. Does the job description interest me? Will the pay sustain my lifestyle? Is the work environment conducive for my personal growth? It’s all about me and what I need. It’s a big decision in the moment. But frankly, if it doesn’t work out, I can always quit. No real lasting pressure. My termination would become a minor blip on the company’s employment record. I may not even officially add it to my resume. The process and the outcome is pretty black and white.
Lookingglass Theatre presents MR. RICKEY CALLS A MEETING. Jackie Robinson is about to become a Brooklyn Dodger. He would be the first Major League’s black ballplayer. His employment would break the color-barrier. To gain public support, General Manager Branch Rickey brings together influential black celebrities: Joe Louis, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Paul Robeson. Rickey wants to have some colorful back-up for his controversial act. On the surface, the decision seems black and white. The obvious perspective, especially with 60+ years of hindsight, is ‘Do it, Jackie, play ball!‘ But what about equal pay, the impact on the negro league, racial hatred in the stands and on the field??? MR. RICKEY CALLS A MEETING rounds all the bases before sliding into home.
Influenced by a bogus Joe Louis biography, Playwright Ed Schmidt imagines a tumultuous meeting on the eve of Jackie Robinson’s Dodger career. Louis and Bojangles are financially-struggling. Robeson is a self-professed communist. Rickey wants a winning ball club. Jackie just wants to play baseball in the big league. Under the masterful direction of J. Nicole Brooks, emotions are palpable among the talented ensemble. Baseball is not just a game! At the heart of it, Javon Johnson (Jackie) powerfully musters up a voice. With tears streaming down his face, Johnson goes from silent commodity to historical figure. Wow! A stone-faced Anthony Fleming III (Joe Louis) gives the show a gut punch. Fleming showcases snippets of dark humanity behind the facade of a heavyweight champ. Bringing humor to the tension, Kevin Douglas is hysterical as a starry-eyed bellhop in a room of legends. The entire ensemble is a perfect semblance of historical fiction. It’s like a dream of a dream team performed by a dream team.
MR. RICKEY CALLS A MEETING engages as a thought-provoking summit. I wikipedia-ed all the characters after the show. Reading about their personal triumphs and tragedies made me appreciate Schmidt’s story even more. The pretend reenactment is as real as it gets. Put MR. RICKEY CALLS A MEETING on your calendar, it’s a game-changer!
Wiping off the baseball gravel from her bag, M-Vo describes it with ‘I was taken.’
Production photograph courtesy of Sean Williams.
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission
At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan
Written by Ed Schmidt
Directed by J. Nicole Brooks
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 3pm
Thru February 19th
Buy Tickets at www.lookingglasstheatre.org