December 4, 2016

Here’s the Thing: The Rep brings sports and theater together

Theater and sports don’t exactly go together like a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but an exception can be made when talking about the most recent play put on by the St. Louis Repertory Theater.

Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing is a drama-filled, romantic and comedic sports play that brings light to racial issues in baseball during the 1940s.

The play takes place in 1947, the time Jackie Robinson began to integrate baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Satchel Paige (played by Robert Karma Robinson) and his team of all-star Negro League players, Buck O’Neil (played by Michael Chenevert) and Art Young (played by Peterson Townsend), are “barnstorming” with MLB players. Barnstorming was their version of an inter-league all-star game.

1962 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Bob Feller (played by Kohler McKenzie) headed the team of major leaguers. Feller pitched for the Cleveland Indians and was portrayed as the man trying to recruit Paige to join his team. Feller teamed up with Detroit Tigers rookie Franky Palmieri (played by Sam Wolf), a hotshot ladies’ man from New York.

Palmieri and Young knock heads throughout the entire play and are involved in a love triangle with Moira Hopkins (played by Tsilala Brock). Moira is the daughter of Mrs. Hopkins (played by Vanessa A. Jones), owner of the boarding house used by the traveling ballplayers.

The conflict between Palmieri and Young ends up being catastrophic when the two end up getting in a fight that injures Young to the point that he can’t play baseball again.

With Paige in the title of the play, a viewer would assume that the majority of the action would take place on a baseball field. Other than the opening scene and at the very end when Paige finally decides to accept the invitation to play for the Cleveland Indians, it takes place in the boarding house.

I am not much of a fan of the arts, but I was interested in the play since it was about Satchel Paige, who was arguably one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Thinking the play was going to be mostly about baseball, I was amazed by how much it kept me interested during the off-field scenes. It was a great combination of comedy and drama. I found myself more interested in Paige’s struggle with his baseball future than seeing them actually play.

Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing is intriguing to all audiences. If you’re a sports fan, theater fan, jazz fan, or just interested in a good drama, this play is worth watching.

The play runs through April 10 and ticket prices range from $17.50-$79.50. Students and seniors with valid IDs receive a discounted price.

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