Vienna Theatre Company Rounding ThirdBy Laura & Mike Clark • Oct 24th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Vienna Theatre Company
Vienna Community Center, Vienna, VA
Through November 6th
2:00 with one intermission
$13/$11 Seniors and Students
Reviewed October 21st, 2011
Rounding Third is a play by Richard Dresser. Two men, a little league coach and assistant coach, spend their season trying to either whip their team into shape to win at any cost, or to just have a good time. The two men learn a lot about themselves and a tentative friendship begins to build. Life has its ups and downs as the two men try to make it to the championship game without killing each other or the kids. This two-man show will make you evaluate your own growing up memories, both the good ones and the bad ones.
All in all, Rounding Third was a well performed, well directed show. The audience was a bit small for a Friday night, but seemed to enjoy it. (Especially the people behind us who would not stop giggling and talking about something on their cell phone throughout the first act, leading to Mike’s first ever hushing of another audience member!) Both Don and Michael (not Mike and especially not Mikey!) let their characters grow throughout the course of the season.
Chuck Dluhy as Don was pretty rough around the edges when the show opened. He said what he thought and pulled no punches. Dluhy always seemed to be in motion. Even sitting in the van during a rainstorm he was gesturing and using his hands to make a point about something he thought was important. The first few scenes he tended to run right over his assistant coach. Dluhy’s character made it clear that he did care about the kids he was coaching. This was shown in one scene when he made a couple of the kids stay after practice to work some more. Don went on to explain that it was really just to give the kid something to do as his home life was pretty messed up. His heart was in the right place. Dluhy also visibly softened up in the second act partly due to some serious personal things in his life that needed some reflection.
Mike Sherman played the role of Assistant Coach Michael Johnson believably and with passion. Sherman began his coaching as a way to spend time with his son, who was not the best player. He also had some personal problems that kept his mind on things other than baseball. These problems were a serious issue in the beginning to Don. Sherman made Michael much more anxious and high-strung. The two together definitely had an Odd Couple kind of relationship. However, as the season progressed the two men came to understand each other and their quirks. By the end of the season they were sitting on the same side of the bench. Not together, mind you, but at least on the same side.
Both Director Leta Hall and Set Designer C.J. Steele built the locations of Rounding Third with simplicity in mind. A couple of benches, some basic baseball equipment and you were ready to go. The van was probably the most complicated set piece, but fit in nicely with the theme. Costume Designer Robbie Snow made each man’s outfit part of his character. Don’s t-shirts and more unkempt attire matched his outlook on life, whereas Michael was much more conservative and high strung. In the first act, it may have made more sense if Michael’s jeans were brand new, with creases still visible, instead of nicely worn, comfortable jeans.
Rounding Third was a well-built two-man performance. On Sunday, October 30th, a talkback will be held featuring the cast and director, as well as a panel of experts from the Pinkman Baseball Academy in the field of psychology of coaching youth athletics.
In January of this year Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was published and generated the kind of discussion that coaches Don and Michael would completely understand, if not necessarily from the same perspective. In an interview with “Time” magazine, Chua said that she insisted that her daughters practice their musical instruments for hours on end because she believes that something is only fun once you are good at it. And by good, she meant excellent.
Like Chua, Don’s hard-ball approach to coaching reflects his belief that children who are rewarded for doing anything but their best are being raised to be mediocre. Or, in his word, losers. “Wouldn’t you rather win than lose, given the chance?” he challenges his assistant, Michael.
Michael, the gentler coach sees Don’s approach as punishing and would prefer that the boys learn and grow at their own pace. Above all, Michael wants the boys to have a good experience and create wonderful memories that they will take with them as they captain their own ships through life.
In his forward to Rounding Third Richard Dresser says that both coaches are right. As I’ve paraphrased him when telling people about the play “if we only teach our children to win, we’re not doing them any favors but if we don’t give them to skills to succeed we fail them in another way.” The incident that prompted Dresser to write the play appears in the show and gives the audience the opportunity to examine for themselves how important winning is and what we’d be willing to sacrifice for it. A child’s belief in fair play, perhaps?
I don’t have children but this play resonates for me on many levels because I spend many, many hours each year in my own ballfield: community theater. Sometimes when rehearsals are going poorly or when tempers get short as we all push to produce the best possible show, we’ll hear from someone “I do this for fun. It should be fun.” And answer is always that it’s always more fun when it’s done well. But if it not’s fun, it’s just another job and one you’re not paid for. I am far more like Michael in my personality but I do agree with Don, and with Amy Chua, that we all prefer to win than lose, given the opportunity, and that the best way to win is to go beyond what we think we can do. But I still want everyone to have a good experience.
And like both Don and Michael, I love our team.
Leta Hall, director
- Don: Chuck Dluhy
- Michael: Mike Sherman
- Producer: Lisa Freese
- Director: Leta Hall
- Assistant Director: Mattie Cohan
- Stage Manager: Mary Ann Hall
- Set Design: Leta Hall; C.J. Steele
- Lighting Design: Tom Epps
- Sound Design: Beth Atkins
- Sound Consultant: Jon Roberts
- Properties & Set Dressing: Lisa Freese, Leta Hall, Mike Smith
- Costume Design: Robbie Snow
- Fight Choreography: Leta Hall
- Set Construction: C.J. Steele
- Light Crew: Suzanne Maloney, Ken Perkowski, Michael O’Connor
- Light Board Operator: Michael O’Connor
- Sound Board Operator: Jessie Roberts
- Photographer: Harold Bonacquist
- Program Design: Jessie Roberts
Disclaimer: Vienna Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. VTC also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7288.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.