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Jackie and Me

Metro Theater Company, 2013

Judith Newmark – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A romantic novel by Audrey Niffenegger looked at the fascinating prospect of time travel from a fresh perspective, that of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

A time traveler’s mother doesn’t have it so easy, either. That comes through with poignant wit in the Metro Theater Company’s latest production, Jackie and Me.

Joey (Kurt Hellerich), a baseball-obsessed Pittsburgh kid with a peculiar gift, tells his mom (Kelley Weber) that, in order to do a school report, he must visit Ebbets Field in 1947. She doesn’t like it, but how can she stop him? ‘Joey,” she sighs futilely, ‘can’t you just go to the library like everybody else?”

That moment is one of many small, smart touches that make Jackie and Me a pleasure for adults as well as for the kids who are its main audience.

Playwright Steven Dietz adapted Jackie and Me from Dan Gutman’s popular YA novel, part of a series about Joey. When he holds the right baseball card in his hand, Joey travels back in time, having adventures in which he meets many great athletes. This time he finds Jackie Robinson, the Hall-of-Famer who integrated the major leagues.

Hellerich is a young man, not a child, but he adroitly captures Joey’s boyish curiosity and slightly awkward physical stance. Reginald Pierre, who plays Robinson, towers over him to good effect, and endows the legendary Dodger with good humor as well as nobility. David Wassilak brings convincing bite to the role of Branch Rickey, the executive who hired Robinson, and Adam Moskal is fun as a couple of jerks who plague Joey in two different eras.

In fact, director Tim Ocel’s versatile ensemble creates the illusion of many more actors than there actually are. Ocel’s stylized staging of baseball games is persuasive, too. Scott C. Neale designed the attractive set, set off by Lou Bird’s period costumes and John Wylie’s lighting.

The show’s presenters, Metro and the Edison, recommend Jackie and Me for theatergoers who are at least 9 years old.

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