Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rounding Third

Actors’ Summit hits homer with ‘ROUNDING THIRD’

When our son was six he participated for the first time in Little League baseball. During his initial game a player on the other team dropped a fly ball. When the kid came off the field his father charged over to him, yelled, “What in the *#&% did you do out there?,” and smacked the kid. Our son, his eyes wide with wonder said, “Do I have to play Little League?”

With kids no longer having the freedom to play pick-up games, but participate in sports organized by adults, questions are often raised. “Is the game for parents or the kids?” “Are parents living out their dreams through their son or daughter?” “Is this supposed to be fun or is it competition for winning which teaches that “life is not fair and you’d better learn that right now!”?

Richard Dresser’s comedy is a journey of two Little League coaches from their first meeting to the climactic championship game. The audience is the stand-in for the team, so the coaches speak directly to the viewers about competition, character, punctuality, and the importance of wearing the right equipment.

Don is a blue-collar, macho, win-at-all-costs veteran coach whose son is the star pitcher. Michael, a corporate executive, has always been the odd-man out, the last picked for any team. He believes that the job of a coach is to shield the kids from the intense pressure of competition and make sure they have a good time. Obviously, they are going to conflict. The results are hilarious, touching and thought provoking.

By the end of the play, both of the coaches’ lives and attitudes have changed and the audience leaves asking, “Whose philosophy is right?” And, incidentally, “What is my philosophy concerning winning, losing and life in general?”

Dresser is a good writer. His lines are real people speaking. Male viewers will easily see their neighbors, relatives and maybe even themselves in the well etched characters. Women might see the men in their lives.

Actor’s Summit’s production, under the adept direction of Constance Thackaberry, is on target. She has a good grasp of Dresser’s concept and has a keen understanding of the workings of the male mind. Maybe directing her husband (Keith Stevens) has something to do with that.

Stevens (Don) fully develops the win-obsessed baseball coach. He is consistent in his guy talk, interpretation of male friendship and womanizing. He reflects the highs and lows of his life with clarity.

Daniel Taylor (Michael) is not quite as consistent as Stevens , but does a good job of making Michael real. The character’s motivations seem clear, but Taylor sometimes loses the flow of conversation and some of his actions seem forced.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘ROUNDING THIRD’ is both a delightful and thought provoking script. It gets a very good production at Actors’ Summit. This is definitely a “Yes, go see!”