Under a Baseball Sky: A story inspired by San Diego's Barrio Logan and the history of baseball within the Mexican American community.

Currently Playing Until March 12

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(from left) Laura Crotte as Eli and Ana Nicolle Chavez as Paloma. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

I must admit, when The Old Globe first announced American Mariachi in 2018, my initial reaction was not a positive one... when I saw the play I fell in love with it, with José Cruz González's writing and the sweet way he captures different familial essences. 

Under a Baseball Sky is similar. A Globe commission with a story inspired by San Diego's Barrio Logan and the history of baseball within the Mexican American community. Many would relate Mexico immediately with football -called soccer over here- but no, baseball has been a big deal as well, especially in the north like Sonora home of the Mexican league. Anyway, I get excited and digress.

 'Baseball Sky tells the story of Eli (Laura Crotte) of Mexican-Irish descent, a significant community presence and mean baseball trainer with two kids: Paloma (Ana Nicolle Chavez) and Santiago (Cesar J. Rosado) who of course, are great at the game as well. Paloma was a labor union organizer that decided to step up to the KKK and disappeared. Eli goes into hermit mode and the lot next to her house which was used for baseball games just becomes an empty space full of clutter and memories. Chava (Joseph Morales) Eli's neighbor, who is also a youth community counselor and minister tasked with helping Teo (Diego Josef), a teenager caught in "being in the wrong place at the wrong time" situations. Chava thinks it is a good idea for Teo to clean up the lot for Eli even though she does not agree. Things start out rocky between Eli and Teo, to then get weird as Teo starts seeing ghosts and scenes from the past. He lets Eli know and as her guard comes down, a bond between the two begins with her teaching the teenager to pitch and noticing he cannot see well. Teo also learns that Paloma's remains have been found and Eli is in denial. Teo's mom is arrested and deported being that she is a naturalized citizen but, ok... They help each other out, Teo gets to see, more than visually and Eli gets sort of a closure.

Laura Crotte as Elí and Joseph Morales as Chava in The Old Globe’s Under a Baseball Sky.
Photo by Rich Soublet II.

The creative team for this piece did a beautiful job starting with Rui Rita's lighting design which really contributes to tracing the tale staged in the round at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre using green tones to recreate a baseball field switching to yellow, earthy tones for the empty, abandoned lot. When Teo sees Paloma's ghost, there is a green light following her which is fantastic lending a pop to the magical realism in the story. There is also a scene where Eli and Teo go to church and the lighting again is brilliant with a reflection on the floor of a stained glass window. L-o-v-e-d it.

The set design by Anna Louizos is detailed all the way to the weed tugged in the wire fence. Leon Rothenberg's sound design also lends various pops starting with different baseball pitching sounds, crowds cheering, and Chava's nana's yapping dog which is SO ICONIC in Mexican grandmothers (If you know, you know). The play does not openly mention the time it is set on, but Danielle Nieves's costume design gives us north to maybe the 50s-ish with long shorts, wavy locks, and oxford-style shoes. 

Laura Crotte delivers all the layers as the troubled Eli from sass to happiness, to humor, to great sadness. The acting at times is a tad caricaturesque but it is minimal and the girl can do a mean squat! 

The histrionic weight is mostly between Crotte and Josef with Morales. We see less of Ana Nicolle Chavez and Cesar J. Rosado yet, their scenes are deep. Chavez is great as Paloma, her ghost, and Chava's nana, and Rosado does good work in the scenes where he plays ball with his sister to when he confronts his mother regarding Paloma's disappearance. I had not seen Joseph Morales since his role as Usnavi in the first national tour of In the Heights in 2010! so, that was cool. Diego Josef is debuting with this piece and it was pretty good. Globe Resident Artist James Vásquez also did a good job directing the play with his sweet and soft style that meshes well with Cruz Gonzalez's writing and holding space for a true melodic ensemble. With that said, I wish two things, to see James direct more anglo plays like back in 2019 with Tiny Beautiful Things AND to have the Globe really embrace diversity and invite more Latin American directors to the main stages.

Lastly, (no more numbered bullet points, promise) there are three things that stood out to me that I have to mention:

(from left) Diego Josef , Ana Nicolle Chavez, Laura Crotte, and Cesar J. Rosado.
Photo by Rich Soublet II.
1) Why does "Elí" have an accent on the I if it is pronounced "Ellie"? as it is maybe referring to Elizabeth or Elia, then the accent should be on the é for Éli, no? If accented at all.

2) Same thing with a reference to the slang word in Spanish "caló". The actor refers to it as "calo" like Frida "Kahlo"... I understand this might sound ridiculous to most, but if we are including these words and want to tap into a culture, its language, and community, let us go all the way and do it right. I remember once, Pat Launer shared a similar observation with the mispronunciation of words in Yiddish within plays and I felt SEEN.

3) Is it really necessary to continue to include deportation and ICE when involving a Mexican and Mexican American family? Is it? or has it become a narrative/context crutch within American theatre?

I always try to share the good, the bad, and the ugly in these views. Might seem harsh or yin-yanguie but it is necessary to put these conversations on the table. Especially now.

And as I say all the time, go see for yourself and get your own impressions while supporting local theatre.

Under a Baseball Sky is currently playing until March 12. There are scheduled Post Show Forums on Wednesday, February 22, and Tuesday, March 7.

For performance dates, times, and ticket prices please click HERE

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