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Theater Review

Color Line Crumbles in 'Last Season'

September 20, 2001|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One man hopes his baseball team will be as good as last season, becoming the first three-peater of the Negro League. Other men see this as their last year in a second-class league.

In Christopher Moore's "The Last Season" at Stage 52, members of the Montgomery Black Kings team witness the quick disintegration of their following and prestige as their fans turn toward Jackie Robinson's recent integration into the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It's 1947, and the men grouse and grumble about Robinson, claiming he wasn't the best the Negro League had to offer. After all, the Kings regularly beat all-white teams during exhibition games.

Yet the new opportunities haunt the older members and entice the younger. Ed Hayne's skewed set hints at a universe in disarray--men kept down by their race, men losing their stature, and men betraying their friends for the whisper of promise.

There is a hint of nostalgia that director Chuck Smithbalances with righteous indignation and envy. Harry Lennix as the restless pitcher and J.J. Marshall Jones percolate with dissatisfaction that contrasts Frantz Turner'sturn as the easygoing snappy dresser.

Doc Ballard's lighting shifts are slightly distracting and Smith could tighten the pace, but these are minor quibbles. The Robey Theatre Company and Legacy Productions show is a worthy and well-acted presentation about a sports system that segregation created and integration destroyed.

*

"The Last Season," Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 14. $20-$16. (818) 567-4249. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

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