Black History Month gets a salute from Lookingglass. From the theatre that brought you Black Diamond, comes Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting. Its hard to imagine in this day and age that there was ever a time where there wasn’t any African American athletes. This production causes us to ask our own questions about racism. Artistic director, Andy White addresses. The arguments made and the questions they pose to us in this play are alive and present in some ways as they were in 1947.
Truly an ensemble production “Mr.Rickey” sets the stage as Jackie Robinson (played powerfully as Javon Johnson) prepares to make history as major league baseball’s first African American player. There are only a few things standing in the way. Each of pillars of the African American community, have to give their support to Ricky. Joe Louis (Anthony Fleming III) only has his financial problems on his mind, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson also has his own interests at heart, but lives to play the fool. His delightful portrayal by Ernest Perry Jr. symbolized a bygone era of the African American stereotype that made him wealthy. James Vincent Meredith captured the preachy quality of actor Paul Robeson, the stalemate of the meeting.
Special mention should go to Kevin Douglas for his cheerful portrayal of Clancey, the young man who was unaware that he was watching history in the making. His comic antics were a welcome break from the dramatic tension. It was also a delight to see him play the character with such youthful enthusiasm that we all once had. Also it was very obvious that Johnson played Robinson with all the passion he had for the game, some of the best dramatic moments of the play were shown by this incredible young actor.
Lookingglass is noted for its thought provoking theatre. Recently they have presents such controversial shows as “The Life and Times of Lilka Kadison” and “Trust.” “Mr. Rickey” promises to entertain, to educate, and to make you think. Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting runs through February 19th at Lookingglass Theatre located at 821 N Michigan Ave in Chicago. Tickets are available Tuesday-Sunday with buy one get one free Saturday matinees sponsored by Target.