The audience takes their seats. The house lights dim. But then a new set of lights starts glowing from the stage. Stadium lights perch on top of bleachers. They overlook a grassy field below with a chain link fence surrounding it. Bases sit on each corner with a pitcher’s mound front and center. Here at Toni Stone, baseball is front and center of everything.
On the Field at the Goodman
Through clever stage design by Todd Rosenthal, we feel like we’re right there in the action on the field. Our titular character, Toni Stone, played by Tracey N. Bonner, stands at the front of the stage illuminated by a spotlight. She starts speaking to us, wanting to share her story of the first woman to ever play professional baseball. Behind her, eight teammates are poised in a batter’s stance ready to knock one out of the park. 4
Bringing the Fun
Baseball is at its heart a game and the cast keeps the air light and goofy as they quite literally clown around on stage. Bonner jokes around with her boys on the field and keeps her tone light as she describes her love of the game and how she got into baseball.
Her fellow teammates each take on a character of their own. Kai Ealy as King Tut dons a dusty tuxedo jacket while telling jokes with wide eyes and a smile. Edgar Miguel Sanchez as Specs, though shorter than his teammates, makes up for his perceived shortcomings with cheeky references to other parts of his anatomy. And the audience doubles over in laughter as four of them embody four creaky, old, white men with exaggerated expressions and mannerisms.
Outside of the baseball team, Toni is also joined by two important influencers on her life, Millie and Alberga. Jon Hudson Odom plays Millie with a regal air, different than what we might expect from a woman of the night. He sits delicately and is soft spoken offering valuable life advice to Toni as her only woman friend.
Chiké Johnson has the crowd swooning as he walks into the bar and charms Toni with his suave air. He stands tall in a three piece suit in the back of Toni’s mind and pushes her to negotiate a better deal for herself.
The Troubles That Persisted
There is no lack of joy in this show as we feel Toni’s love of baseball and the energy coming from her supporting cast members. But it’s still the 1950s and we also hear the challenges and prejudices the team faces along with the extra dose of sexism Toni faces by just being a woman. Crowds jeer at the all Black team when they’re winning against a white team. They travel for miles on a comfortless bus just to stay at brothels.
For this writer, it felt like the drama felt unbalanced as the conflicts came too slow at first, but then ramped up very quickly in Act 2. But by the end it still feels like we’re retiring Toni’s jersey after witnessing a remarkable story. If you’re interested in other stories like this, you might also be interested in reading our review of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
Toni Stone would be a good fit for anyone who likes plays rooted in history, especially stories we may not usually hear. It also would be a good fit for those who enjoy a play with good story telling and lots of jokes.
Toni Stone…………….Tracey Bonner
King Tut………………..Kai Ealy
Elzie…………………Joseph Aaron Johnson
Millie…………………Jon Hudson Odom
Spec…………………..Edgar Miguel Sanchez
Playwright - Lydia R. Diamond
Director- Ron OJ Parson
Associate Direction by Henri Watkins
Set Design by Todd Rosenthal
Associate Set Design by Sotirios Livaditis
Costume Design by Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting Design by Keith Parham
Original Music and Sound Design by Andre Pluess
Movement by Cristin Carole
Projection Design by Mike Tutaj
January 28 - February 26, 2023
Sundays - 2 pm *and 7:30 pm
Monday 2/6 - 7 pm
Tuesday 2/21 - 7:30 pm
Wednesdays - 7:30 pm
Thursdays - 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Fridays - 8 pm
Saturdays - 2 pm and 8 pm
170 N Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60601
About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski