Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
“Rounding Third,” the second production in the Chenango River Theatre’s 2011 season, hit a home run on opening night. No knowledge of baseball is required to know they’re batting 1000.
Despite 2 inches of rain, a power blackout that afternoon and a flooded parking lot, the show went on before a sell-out crowd.
“Rounding Third” is a two-man play that paired gifted actors Jack Harris and Drew Kahl in an unforgettable “odd couple” of Don and Michael. At first glance, they couldn’t have been more dissimilar – from different social classes and backgrounds, with diametrically opposed life philosophies. Blue collar versus white collar. Sports jock versus nerd. Beer-swilling boor vs. a touchy-feely tee-totaler. You get the picture.
Winning is all to Don, a house painter, who lives for baseball and coaching to spice up his otherwise empty life. He’d do whatever it takes to score. “I’d rather lose than cheat,” counters the principled Michael.
Don envisions glory for his son through baseball; he’s aghast when the boy chooses to dance in “Brigadoon” instead. “Jimmy’s gone over to the other side,” he moans. Although Don is a womanizer, he’s derailed when he learned his wife is having it on with his best friend and former assistant coach. Workaholic Michael wants to spend quality time wants his son and ensure that the boy doesn’t inherit his dad’s geekiness or be unpopular with the other kids, as he was.
As playwright Richard Dresser peels back these characters layer by layer like an onion, the audience discovers that they have one thing in common – they’re both striking out in the game of life. As they learn to look beyond superficial appearances and discover commonalities, they form a strange friendship that makes them both life’s winners.
Harris, a regular at CRT and a founding member of EXIT 18 Theatre Company in New Paltz, and Kahl, a member of the theater faculty at State University College at Oneonta, play their parts to perfection. Kahl is master of the double-take, reacting with hilarious deadpan to every obnoxious statement that his co-actor utters. Harris’ depiction of an unprincipled jerk is masterful and utterly believable. I’d eat my baseball cap if these guys aren’t really the characters they depict on stage.
Set design by Bill Lelbach (also sound designer) is clever, minimal and efficient. Lighting by Julie Duro and costume design by Barbara Kahl are first-rate. Choice of tunes broadcast on the P.A. between acts underscore the play’s messages cleverly. Refreshments and sweet guitar music by Tom Rasely in the lobby beforehand were a bonus to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
“Rounding Third” continues Thursdays-Sundays through July 31 at the Chenango River Theatre, located at 991 State Route 12, Greene. Next production: The musical, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” billed as a romp of mistaken identity, friendship and love set at a Catskills resort in 1960, Aug. 4-21. Box office: 607-656-8499, or visit www:chenangorivertheatre.org.