Volume II, Issue II Summer 2003

Theater by, for and of guys

Review by Jim Trageser

Rounding Third
Written by Richard Dresser
Directed by David Petrarca

Cassius Carter Centre Stage
The Old Globe
Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif.
Through July 13


Richard Dresser's "Rounding Third" is a small but insightful play revolving around two Little League coaches and their different approaches to teaching the kids.

It is, obviously, nothing at all like The Old Globe's other current production, "Pentecost."

Perhaps because it is running against an ambitious play like "Pentecost," "Rounding Third" has not generated much of a buzz here in San Diego. And much of what is said about the play, both locally and on the 'Net (it's a popular production in regional theater), seems to dismiss it as cute but lacking substance.

In light of that tendency to dismiss this as lightweight fun, this point needs to be made: It's a guy play.

Rouunding Third Guys don't talk about their feelings, at least not directly. We come at things sideways, with lots of thematic euphemisms. And Dresser has written an entire play in guyspeak.

Which means not that there are not serious discussions here, but that you have to listen between the lines to hear what the characters are really saying to each other.

The tough, burly Don and the dorky Michael may not have long-winded, soul-wrenching talks about feelings, but that doesn't mean they aren't wrestling with life's big questions.

Loyalty, meaning, love – all are repeated themes of "Rounding Third," assuming you understand guyspeak.

The actors playing these two very different men are both wonderful. Jeffrey Hutchinson has Michael's character down perfectly – the still-nerdish adult who continues to battle his insecurities, but resolutely refuses to back down, displaying a geeky kind of courage. And Tom McGowan has the rough-edged Tom down, too – a man's man, keeping his bravado up at all times, even when alone.

And yet they do find common ground, just like men in real life do. As Tom points out toward the end, they're never going to be buds. But Michael's willingness to raise a step-son by himself is the kind of manliness that even a blowhard like Tom respects.

The set in the theater-in-the-round of the Cassius Carter Centre Stage is designed by Robin Sanford Roberts, and again shows her to be perhaps the most imaginative at converting the small stage into a much larger canvas. The elevated green "field," with the authentic rain-gutter drains along its base, has the look and feel of a neighborhood Little League dugout.

The sound design of Rob Milburn and lighting of David Cuthbert combine with Roberts' stage to allow the two actors to engage the larger if unseen world they're involved in.

Jim Trageser is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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