Theater Review: UNDER A BASEBALL SKY (Old Globe)

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by Dan Zeff on March 6, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Under A Baseball Sky is a likable new play by José Cruz González now nearing the end of a five-week run at the Old Globe Theatre. It’s tight work, running about 90 minutes without an intermission. The comparative brevity still allows the playwright to touch a number of themes, several of them of the touchy-feely strain, tied together primarily by the strength of baseball on generations of Mexican-American life.

Laura Crotte as Elí and Joseph Morales

The time and place of the play’s action are not specified but the playwright has identified the locale as San Diego’s Logan Heights, a.k.a. Barrio Logan. The time stretches from what could be the early 1900s to the present day. The action among the Chicano characters is confined to a vacant lot, enclosed by a metal fence.

Laura Crotte and Diego Josef 

There are five characters in the story, headed by an elderly Spanish-speaking woman named Elí (Laura Crotte). Crotte steals the show as a bulky elderly matron who speaks mostly in Spanish but her expressive vocalizing and body language make her understandable to an English-speaking audience. Elí carries a heavy burden of grief over the deaths of her adult children–daughter Paloma (Ana Nicolle Chavez) and son Santiago (Cesar J. Rosado). Paloma had died violently as a young woman many years ago. She was a feisty labor activist and it’s likely she was murdered to stop her fight for labor rights. Santiago’s death in a roadside auto accident may or may not have been accidental.

Joseph Morales, Laura Crotte, Cesar J. Rosado, and Diego Josef

Teo is a troubled teenager who got into a tussle with a classmate and has been sentenced to cleaning Elí’s yard as community service. Teo seethes with resentment because his widowed mother was ticketed for driving with a broken tail light, which her son had neglected to repair. The woman was arrested and taken into custody because she was driving without a license, even though she had legal immigrant status, one of the play’s numerous examples of white bias abusing the local Mexican-American community. Diego Josef looks and sounds just right as the emotionally roiled Teo. The ensemble is rounded out with a sympathetic performance by Joseph Morales as the social worker who supervises Teo in the juvenile court system.

Diego Josef, Ana Nicolle Chavez, Laura Crotte, and Cesar J. Rosado

Running throughout the show is the importance of baseball in the Chicano culture in the States. The prejudice against African-American players before Jackie Robinson is now well-documented but baseball was a powerful force in Mexican-American society that included both male and female teams and Gonzales writes some potent scenes that reveal how much “the great American pastime” meant to generations who were invisible to white America. There is a display in the theater lobby of historical material on Chicano contributions to the sport that are well worth inspecting.

Laura Crotte and Ana Nicolle Chavez

My one problem with the play was my intermittent difficulty tracking some of the shifts in time and place through the interjection of a kind of Field of Dreams fantasy. What finally earns this production high marks is its warmth and humor enriched by moments of credibly intense drama. Director James Vásquez obviously feels a great rapport with González’s writing and guides his quintet of fine performers with an unobtrusive rightness. Vasquez profits from the sensitivity and creativity of a design team led by Anna Louizos (scenery), Danielle Nieves (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting), and especially Leon Rothenberg (sound).

photos by Rich Soublet II

Under a Baseball Sky
world premiere commissioned by The Old Globe
The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
Tues and Wed at 7; Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on March 12, 2023
for tickets (beginning at $29), call 619.323.GLOBE or visit The Old Globe

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