Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Toni Stone
Arena Stage
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule (updated)

Santoya Fields and Cast
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography
Play ball! For the first time in 18 months, Arena Stage in Washington, DC, is welcoming (vaccinated, masked) audiences back to live performance with its lively, inspirational production of Toni Stone in the Kreeger Theater.

Toni Stone (Santoya Fields) is a little-known pivotal figure in the history of baseball: in 1953 she became the first woman to play on a men's professional team, the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond's story is placed in a stylized setting of bleachers and floodlights (set design by Riccardo Hernández, lighting design by Allen Lee Hughes) with a versatile eight-man ensemble playing most of the men (and a few of the women) in Toni's life.

As embodied by Fields, Toni is a magnetic personality with a desire to play pro baseball and the ability and confidence to back up her dreams. To her, baseball is a metaphor for life: everything of importance can be summed up by the weight of the ball in her hand. On the other hand, as skilled as Negro League players were, they were also expected to "bring the show" and act foolish for white audiences, and she also faced some antagonism as a woman in a male-dominated profession.

Camille A. Brown has created all-encompassing choreography for the baseball game sequences, bringing her actors together in synchronized yet individual movement to the sound design and original music of Broken Chord.

Of course, the play also offers scenes of Toni's life off the ballfield. She wears men's clothes and negotiates a relationship with a businessman named Alberga (smooth Aldo Billingslea), who has to learn that she takes care of herself first. Other supporting characters include an Irish priest who encourages young Toni to play on the boys' baseball team at Catholic school, a coach for white boys whom she wins over through sheer persistence, and Kenn E. Head in a lovely performance as a "working girl" who befriends Toni. The supporting actors all play members of the Clowns as well, but Gilbert Lewis Bailey II sparkles as small, smart, and big-talking Spec.

Toni Stone runs through October 3, 2021, in the Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage's Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 Sixth St. SW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-488-3300 or visit

By Lydia R. Diamond
Based on Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone by Martha Ackmann
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
The Roundabout Theatre Company production

Spec/Gabby: Gilbert Lewis Bailey II
Alberga/Rufus: Aldo Billingslea
Jimmy/Father O'Keefe: Deimoni Brewington
King Tut/Supervisor: JaBen Early
Toni Stone: Santoya Fields
Millie/Willie: Kenn E. Head
Elzie/Dance Captain: Rodney Earl Jackson Jr.
Stretch/Syd/Fight Captain: Sean-Maurice Lynch
Woody/Mother: Jarrod Mims Smith