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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s newest play, Jackie & Me is the stage adaptation of Dan Gutman’s novel centered around the great Jackie Robinson, the first African American in Major League Baseball, and the racism and adversity he had to overcome to play the game he loved. The novel, geared toward a younger audience, teaches important life lessons about temper control, acceptance, and cultural diversity through the eyes of Joey Stoshack, a hot-headed Polish little-leaguer living in the present day.
But Joey has something that other kids don’t—the ability to travel through time using baseball cards. For a school assignment on Jackie Robinson, Joey borrows a Robinson rookie baseball card and is transported to 1947 New York. Instead of maintaining his identity as a Polish child, however, Joey arrives as an African-American boy.
A chance run-in with Jackie’s wife, Rachel, allows Joey into the Robinson home, where he finds comfort and, of course, great material for his school assignment. A stoic Robinson mentors Joey on how to control his temper in the face of adversity.
“I’m not here to be liked,” Robinson says before his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger. “I’m here to play baseball.”
Other baseball greats make appearances throughout the production, including Dixie Walker, Ben Chapman, Eddie Stanky, and Pee Wee Reese. Even an elderly Babe Ruth makes his way into the play in an unexpected twist.
On the whole, this stage rendition of Jackie & Me seemed like a 90-minute public service announcement, and my adult imagination would only let me indulge the frequent set changes to a certain point (especially considering that the stage remained an AstroTurf baseball diamond throughout). But I do recommend the performance to younger audiences learning the importance of diversity and acceptance, as well as those interested in baseball history.
Show times vary through Feb. 16. $25 to $45. 140 W. Washington St., 635-5252, irtlive.com.
Photos courtesy IRT
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