The reviews are in for CTC’s ‘Jackie and Me’

Children’s Theatre Company’s “Jackie and Me” takes its audience back to the 1940s, just as baseball great Jackie Robinson is shouldering his way through an obstinate color line.

The story, directed by Marion McClinton, is told through the eyes of a modern day white kid named Joey Stoshack who can travel through time with the aid of his baseball cards. Stoshack witnesses first hand what Robinson endures on and off the playing field.

Critics find this show grand, lively, winning… and a little bit confusing.

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The cast of Jackie and Me, directed by Marion McClinton at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.

Photo by Dan Norman

From Lisa Brock at the Star Tribune:

This production capably conjures the sound and feel of a baseball diamond, complete with reverberating play-by-play announcing, and director Marion McClinton choreographs the ebb and flow of the crowd scenes with an almost balletic sense. While “Jackie and Me” could easily bog down in didacticism, McClinton keeps the pace lively, while Brooks’ charm keeps the audience engaged in his journey.

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

“Jackie and Me” is an altogether winning story that tells — in broad perspective and at an appropriate level for young audiences — the story of how Robinson broke the color line in baseball. It’s not a hearts-and-butterflies telling: Audiences learn about the taunting and the death threats Robinson endured, and the script speculates on what lay beneath the ballplayer’s legendary grace and calm. “It’s not wrong to fight,” Robinson tells Joey at one point. “The question is how? With our fists or something more?”

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Brandon Brooks, Spencer Harrison Levin and Braxton Baker in “Jackie and Me” at Children’s Theatre Company.

Photo by Dan Norman

From John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com:

21st century children are inundated with stories about the struggle of civil rights pioneers like Robinson, Rosa Parks, the young Martin Luther King, et al. It’s easy for an aging writer like me, who lived through the era, to resent the simplistic “past-tenseness” of plays like Jackie And Me: we used to have a problem; we don’t any more. For the kids in CTC’s audience, this is ancient history. Which is as it should be. Children need to be reminded, and often, that the rights they take for granted were fought for, by real heroes, men and women who deserve to be celebrated. Jackie And Me does this.

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Ansa Akyea as Jackie Robinson in “Jackie and Me” at Children’s Theatre Company.

Photo by Dan Norman

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

[Joey’s] black when he travels into the past. It’s a plot twist I can imagine working very well on the page, but it just doesn’t translate to the stage. A second actor to play the role might work, or maybe if there were more instances where his exterior color put the boy in greater danger.

In fact, there are so many complications to Joey’s tale that it feels like Robinson’s own tale doesn’t get nearly enough room to breathe. That’s a shame, as they have one of the best actors in town, Ansa Akyea, in the role. He plays Robinson as a rock — steady and seemingly impervious — but there are enough signs of the pain and rage just boiling under the surface to fully round out the character.

“Jackie and Me” runs through April 14 at Children’s Theatre Company. Have you seen it? What’s your review?