Before attending Under the Baseball Sky at The Old Globe, I had dinner at The Prado restaurant which is fancier than I am used to but casual dining options are limited in Balboa Park. I unwittingly ordered Mary’s Chicken “Pot Pie” for dinner. I was confused when I received a photogenic plate of chicken, raw tender greens, exquisite root vegetables, and a pate brisee crisp (aka a fluffy cracker) rather than a crusty pot pie.
The patient waiter explained that the quotation marks signal it is a deconstructed dish.
Deconstructed dishes are when a chef deciphers a meal’s essence by dismantling the usual recipe into its parts. This is a thing I did not know… and now know.
In honor of learning something new, I present to you, a “show critique.” Please enjoy the ingredients of a theatrical review, served without coalescence or crust.
The Key Takeaways:
Under the Baseball Sky at The Old Globe is good, and I recommend seeing it.
It is a world premiere play and runs through March 12, 2023. The show runs one hour and twenty-five minutes without intermission.
From José Cruz González comes a story about baseball’s deep roots in the Mexican-American community. When troublemaker Teo is put to work cleaning up a vacant lot owned by an elderly woman, this unlikely pair forms a bond forged in both history and America’s favorite pastime. Inspired by San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood, this beguiling world premiere celebrates communities and individuals coming together to find hope, healing, love, and the occasional home run.
At first, I thought it was gonna be the story of a Chicano teen who gets community service trope’d into learning the incredible history of his community’s abandoned baseball field – and eventually guided to goodness by a tattooed priest and an elderly broad. But actually, it’s a play about the anguishing life story of a brassy immigrant who outlives everyone she loves and fights through regret to embrace hope and inspire the next generation. Also, gentrification. Also, one ghost.
My Scrawled Scribbles:
- I already knew playwright José Cruz González would make me cry because I saw American Mariachi (The Old Globe, 2018). This one has better writing.
- The set was cool.
- Casting Diego Josef was smart. Josef is a film actor, so he was not thrown by an audience on four sides of him and aced the intimate, realism thing. Bravo.
- The stage manager’s cue timing was chef’s-kiss impeccable. (Jess Slocum for mayor!)
- I’m glad James Vazquez directed this. I bet Damn Yankees is gonna be great too.
- The two kids in my row were so sucked into the story that they never bugged their mom for a snack or to use the bathroom. Whoa, right?
- Laura Crotte‘s physicality!!!!
My Theatre Student Notes:
This play has many themes including gentrification, racism, immigration, politics, generational trauma, human evolution, parenting, guilt, faith, the supernatural, pastoral burnout, baseball, community, civic responsibility, unions, hate crime, the American dream, hope, elder loneliness, and Hispanic heritage.
This is almost too many toppings on a 90-minute pizza.
Post-Show Free Journaling :
After the show, I had to think my own thoughts because no one was talking. Everyone, including me, lept to our feet to applaud Laura Crotte, but when the house lights lifted and the audience turned to leave, hardly anyone fumbled for a phone. In fact, none of the women in line for the bathroom mentioned how impressive it is for actors to memorize so many lines. Everyone was quietly processing their feelings. I love the dazed post-show shuffle. I love shows that force you to consider the complexities of God’s horrible and hopeful world.
Crying in the theater after holding it in all week makes me feel like an emotional bulimic. Pastors might call this quiet, contemplative time “leaving it at the cross,” but I did not go to seminary. I learned a different term while earning my B.S. degree in theatre: catharsis. Catharsis is defined as the purification and purgation of emotions through dramatic art.
At least once a week I need one piece of cathartic art that makes me drop my burdens, and this one fits the bill. It was warm, stiff, and heady. It made me want to throw a grog glass to the ground and drunkenly shout, “Another!” even though it was thoroughly sobering.
The Show Info:
Under the Baseball Sky,
A Globe-commissioned world premiere
By José Cruz González
Directed by James Vásquez
February 11 – March 12, 2023
Post Show Forum: Tuesday, February 21; Wednesday, February 22; and Tuesday, March 7.
Suitability Suggestions: Contains strong language, strobe lighting, herbal cocoa shell cigarettes, a prop gun, references to violence, and a particularly sexy cast.