Playing out in real time, this ninety-minute show captures an imagined closed-door meeting called by Branch Rickey, the Dodger’s General Manager (played with cigar-chomping gusto by Larry Neumann, Jr.), on the eve of the historic signing of Jackie Robinson (Javon Johnson) to the Dodgers in 1947. Aside from Robinson and Rickey, in attendance are champion boxer Joe Louis (a stoically constrained Anthony Fleming III), actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson (a forcefully captivating James Vincent Meredith) and actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (a playful and lively Ernest Perry, Jr.). What starts as a brief surface-level meeting quickly explodes into a much heavier conversation. “Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting,” last performed in 1997, is a sports show that somehow manages to maintain its aura of sportiness while hardly touching on athletics. Sibyl Wickersheimer’s baseball-diamond-themed hotel-room set and Brian Bembridge’s eye-popping field lights certainly don’t hurt in this area. Playwright Ed Schmidt captures a very specific moment in American history, but also delivers a timeless message about the dynamics of change and social justice. Director J. Nicole Brooks has re-enlivened a piece that deserves to be seen. (Zach Freeman)
Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 North Michigan, (312)337-0665. $27.50-$68. Through February 19.