WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW Toni Stone at the Goodman
Review by Tracy Baim
This article shared 3245 times since Tue Feb 7, 2023
Lydia R. Diamond's original play, Toni Stone, is simply wonderful on all levels. Directed by Ron OJ Parson in its Chicago premiere at the Goodman Theatre, the play is about the first known woman to play pro baseball. The script, acting, choreography and staging were perfectI wanted to go home, get my well-worn baseball glove, and jump on stage.
Toni Stone (1921-1996) was rejected by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League because of her race, so she focused on becoming the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. She was the first to play pro baseball full time for the Indianapolis Clowns ( two other women later played for the team: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianapolis_Clowns ).
Tracey N. Bonner as Toni Stone is a joy to watch. She is on stage for almost the entire show, moving around with the ball and her teammates, suffering the brutality of sexist opponents, navigating a new relationship with a gentleman at the bar, and becoming friends with a sex worker, Millie, while the men are with the other ladies. Jon Hudson Odom's Millie is stunning and captivating.
The camaraderie and timing of the team on stage is fantastic. There is so much complexity and nuance as they move from moments of fun and laughter, to the serious issues of the extreme racism they face just trying to play the game they love. From exploitive owners and racist hotels, we get a true sense of the sacrifice Toni Stone and the men of the Negro Leagues went through.
I highly recommend this play. I was fortunate to see this the day after seeing the Goodman's The Ripple, The Wave that Carried Me Home by Christina Anderson, another beautiful script with terrific acting and staging. That one has just a few shows left. Both these productions are about sports and recreation, but their primary common denominator is how race (and gender) have been used to keep so many people from their dreams.
Other key cast include Kai Ealy (King Tut), Joseph Aaron Johnson (Elzie), Chiké Johnson (Alberga), Travis Knight (Stretch), Victor Musoni (Jimmy), Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Spec) and Terence Sims (Woody). The creative team includes Henri Watkins (Associate Director); Todd Rosenthal (Set Design); Sotirios Livaditis (Associate Set Design); Mara Blumenfeld (Costume Design); Keith Parham (Lighting Design); Andre Pluess (Original Music and Sound Design); Cristin Carole (Movement Consultant); Mike Tutaj (Projection Design). Casting is by Lauren Port, CSA and Rachael Jimenez, CSA. Nikki Blue is the Production Stage Manager and Veronica Buztoz is the Stage Manager.
Toni Stone runs through February 26, 2023 in the Albert Theatre. Tickets at GoodmanTheatre.org/Toni or by phone at 312-443-3800.
The play is based on the book Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, by Martha Ackmann.
This article shared 3245 times since Tue Feb 7, 2023
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