Back in the day, when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn and baseball was an all-white game, Branch Rickey hired Jackie Robinson and changed American sports forever. That story - one that would seem a good idea for Black History Month - is the basis of Branch, now at Society Hill Playhouse. The show began with a startling and weirdly manipulative moment: The national anthem was played on a scratchy record, and everyone in the audience stood up.
Somewhere between a high school assembly speech, a pep talk, and a Wikipedia article, Branch by Walt Vail isn't really a play at all, and Steve Hatzai, an accomplished actor and playwright, struggles in this one-man show to theatricalize it. But it's a hopeless task. Director Barry Brait has him move a chair, roll up his sleeves, and tries - futilely - to coordinate his responses with awkward and excessive voice-overs (which occasionally dissolve irritatingly into mere static).