It is not often that a playwright gets an idea from an error in a biography, but Ed Schmidt’s powerful script,”Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting” , is a brilliant piece of work. Based on a paragraph in the Biography of Joe Louis, The Brown Bomber, Schmidt takes us to a time in history, the historical days before Jackie Robinson became the first Negro ball player in the Major Leagues and how he supposedly had a special meeting with Three of the most powerful and well known members of the African American community to get their approvals.
In this stunning play, now on the stage at Lookingglass Theatre under the skillful direction of J. Nicole Brooks, Rickey ( the always reliable Larry Neumann,Jr.) has brought young Jackie Robinson (deftly handled by Javon Johnson) to the Hotel Roosevelt to meet with three major men in the Negro community; famed boxer ,Joe Louis (another fine character study by Anthony Fleming III), Superstar performer Paul Robeson (James Vincent Meredith, who once again shows his versatility) and show-biz legend, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (a wonderful character played with great style and grace by Ernest Perry,Jr.). Rickey wants to break the color barrier the next day and feels that if these three men support what he is doing, baseball will proceed to allow for this happening.
The play is one of interpretation and consideration of what could have been or might have been as these men, from different lifestyles examine how they could influence the Negro community, let alone the entire Country on this matter. During this night, we see many ideas and ideals smashed and examined. We learn how each of these men feel about what this will mean to not just the country and the sport, but also to the future. In breaking a barrier, as big as this one was, are there people who will get hurt? Are there people who will grow? This is 90 minutes of marvelous acting on a wonderful set by Sibyl Wickersheimer, great lighting ( Brian Bembridge), perfectly suited costumes by Alison Siple and props by Maria DeFabo that are very fitting of the times.
The other actor, that I must mention, the one that fills in the bare spots and connects the dots is Kevin Douglas as bellhop, Clancy Hope. He is also a Black man who is star struck over the men who are in this meeting and finds himself doing anything he can to stay connected to them so he can get their autographs, but as it turns out, his input and deeds become a very important part in bringing the story to where it ends up. This is a story about more than the major league baseball change with Robinson changing the face of history, but truly a story of how one change can have an impact on many, some positive, others negative and should one go with the flow, their gut or with what will serve the “greater good” ( whatever that is!).
If you are a baseball fan, you will enjoy this brilliant production! If you a person who cares about people and the obstacles that have been overcome throughout history, you will love this story and the telling of it by this wonderful cast! If you just love theater, do not miss this- 90 minutes of pure entertainment. “Mr.Rickey” will continue at The Lookingglass located at 821 N. Michigan Avenue , in the Chicago Historical Water Tower, through February 19th with performances as follows:
Wednesday,Thursday,Friday,Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m.
Matinees at 3 p.m. on Thursdays,Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday afternoon-Target Matinees have some limited buy one get one free tickets available and student tickets at $20 are available with ID.
Tickets range from $20-$68 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-337-0665 or online at www.lookingglasstheatre.org