Toni Stone

a kate west review
Toni Stone

by Lydia R. Diamond
directed by Pam MacKinnon  | choreographed by Camille A. Brown
American Consevartory Theater  |  A coproduction with Arena Stage
405 Geary Street , San Francisco, CA
415.749.2228 |
Mar 5–29, 2020

Please note: Because of the recent outbreak (we all know the one), many theaters have been forced to shut down, but some of them are offering video links for patrons to watch in the safety of their shelter-in-place homes. Thankfully, this play can be viewed by either contacting A.C.T. to obtain a pay-as-you-can video link, or going directly to BroadwayHD. Either way, better hurry, since this option is only good until April 5

Toni Stone (according to wikipedia), born Marcenia Lyle Stone in Bluefield, West Virginia, was the first of three women to play professional baseball, as a part of the Negro League. The American Conservatory Theater covers her stint with the 1950's Indianapolis Clowns in their recent production of "Toni Stone", a west coast premiere.

Dawn Ursula is a strong, outspoken, force of nature as Toni Stone, who had to have been a force to reckon herself, in order to compete as a female in a man's world of sports, as well as a black player in a white owner's universe. Lydia Diamond's casual writing style perfectly captures the easy way athletes have related to each other since sports was invented. This team especially needs their comradery as they confront the racism and sexism of the time (much of which is still sadly relevant in our own society).  Director Pam MacKinnon and Choreographer Camille Brown present a smooth, entertaining and vibrant tale of a little known part of sports history. It's funny, poignant, and real. The dialogue, the staging, the game - all poetry.

The rest of the ensemble, Daniel J. Bryant, JaBen Early, Kenn E. Head, Marquis D. Gibson, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Sean-Maurice Lynch, Ray Shell, and Jarrod Smith, match Ursula quite well, stepping in and out of various characters from Stone's life (male and female). In fact, the strength of the troupe shows us how necessary it would be for teammates to support each other, then and now.

The show is a delight from beginning to end, and a wonderful distraction from our current situation, while spotlighting what we still need to work in our world. Hope we get to do so soon. In the meantime, keep playing ball (at home).

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