Cooperstown

By Brian GoldenCooperstownPrint

Directed by Brian Stojak

Produced by Theatre Seven of Chicago

At the Greenhouse Theatre Center

Worthy world premiere deals effectively with the impact of history on everyday folks

Theatre Seven of Chicago offers another enchanting world premiere with Brian Golden’s Cooperstown. With hints of  Lanford Wilson and an ode to William Inge’s Bus Stop, playwright Brian Golden’s Cooperstown is an ambitious 95 minute one-act that tightly covers several stories. This is a mature, tightly drawn drama that uses location (Cooperstown, New York the home of baseball Hall of Fame) and a strong metaphor, baseball trivia from 1962, to nicely tell a period drama about a group of everyday folks affected by events and history.

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I was 18 years old in 1962 and I was an avid baseball fan so the stats and baseball trivia mentioned about the likes of Tommy Davis, Maury Wills and Hank Aaron perked my memory. Golden’s facts were mostly correct but he did mention the New York lottery that wasn’t started until 1967. But Golden sure got the main thing right in this authentic fictional account of  Jackie Robinson’s induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Sure, Golden probably tried to cover too many stories in Cooperstown but he succeeded in my eyes. His Cooperstown will play better to younger audiences that it plays to mine since I have so many memories of that era.

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Junior (Cecil Burroughs) runs a diner in Cooperstwon with two waitresses–Sharree (Ashleigh La Throp), his younger sister and Dylan (Tracey Kaplan), a baseball stat fanatic. When Huck (Chance Bone)-a real small town hayseed arrives to witness the induction of Robinson, sparks quickly fly between Dylan and Huck. Kaplan needs to talk a tad slower to be understood.

The story compactly emerges as we learn that Junior was a pro ball player who has an affair with Grace (Emjoy Gavino), the wife of the diner’s owner. We see how civil rights activists use Sharree while Huck and Dylan gradually become an item all with Bob Dylan tunes in the back round.  The start of the civil rights activities, a farm boy leaving home and a former minor league player seeking a career and personal recognition are all in play in Cooperstown.

The characters are believable, the plot is hardly new or revolutionary, but there is an honesty from key characters–Burrough’s Junior and Bone’s Huck that gives  Cooperstown an empathetic truth that resonates with us.  Cooperstown nicely deals with the trickle-down effect of a changing time.   This play foreshadows our grappling with race issues as well as the major changes in Major League baseball that finds the Dodgers in LA and the Giants in San Francisco.  Golden has a unique way of storytelling.

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At the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, tickets $18 with group discounts, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission.