Rockville Little Theatre ThirdBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jan 31st, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Rockville Little Theatre: (Info) (Web)
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville, MD
Through February 3rd
2:00 with one intermission
$18/$15 Seniors, Students
Reviewed January 26th, 2013
Third, a play by Wendy Wasserstein is a serious play about a serious issue: life. Told through the eyes of an English professor at a small, liberal New England college, Laurie Jameson has a lot on her plate. She has a father with Alzheimer’s who wonders off so much that Laurie now has to wear a beeper to locate him. One of her daughters is a lesbian whose partner is cheating on her, and the other daughter is home from college trying to find herself and not be like her mom; a close friend has cancer, and a conservative student she believes plagiarized a paper on King Lear. Oh, and she is going through menopause and experiences hot flashes throughout the play. As humorous as this sounds, Third is actually a very deep look into the human psyche.
Laurie Jameson (Sarah Holt) is a total left-winger. Quite full of herself, angry, enjoys name dropping both dead authors and sections of her curriculum vitae. Her unhappiness comes out unexpectedly, as she is trying to play the supermom, as long as her daughter, husband, father, friends and students all see it her way. Holt does a remarkable performance in building up the anger until it spills out in a confrontation between herself and Woodson Bull III. He prefers being addressed as Third, she likes Woody. Third, played by Alex Badalov, is a Republican (strike one), wrote a paper about King Lear in which he disagreed with Dr. Jameson’s view (strike two), and is at school on a wrestling scholarship (strike three). Third and Dr. Holt are great sparing partners who are able to defend their views articulately. Unfortunately Holt is the professor with the grade book and the tenure, so it would appear the chips are stacked against Third. Badalov balanced showing respect and frustration for Dr. Jameson. There was a very funny scene where Third freely expounded on his opinions of dr. Jameson at the bar where he worked.
Nancy Gordon (Jill Goodrich), a colleague and friend of Laurie’s who is going through cancer treatments and has taken time off from teaching to heal, ends up siding with Third at the Faculty hearing. Of course this does not go over well with Holt and the two exchange some hot words and their friendship is ended. Goodrich is equally passionate in defending the last third of her life. Her emotions come out as very real and paint a good picture of how one’s life can be spent in misery or by experiencing hope through love. She made Dr. Gordeon the most real and in touch with her life experiences.
The final two characters are Laurie’s daughter Emily played by Diana Partridge and Laurie’s father Jack played by Stuart Rick. Both characters were believable. Emily was ready to enter the world, just not along the path her mother would prefer. Emily’s boyfriend is older and established. Emily likes that and of course her mother does not. Partridge and Holt also have a strong scene together near the end of the show, where we begin to see Dr. Jameson as a bit more human. Stuart Rick has a small role, but an important one as it shows Laurie there are some things that cannot be fixed just by yelling loud enough or being angry. Jack’s Alzheimer’s was played very realistically and the bond shared between father and daughter in act two was quite sweet.
Set Designer Maggie Modig used a creative vision in designing the Third set. In Act I everything was ramrod straight. There was no room for bending or altering the set which was used as an office, bench, living room, or dorm room depending on the scene. Act II revealed everything slightly askew as Dr. Jameson’s world sort of tilted. Set changes were smooth and well-timed, and kept a nice flow going during the performance. By playing so many scenes in small areas on the large stage, disruptions caused by lengthy scene changes were avoided.
The blowing leaves and the snow falling were executed well. Sound and lights were also well-timed. During the lightning and thunder scene in act II there needed to be more of a reaction to the rain and loud thunder. It may have been Jack’s disease that kept him from having a reaction, but Laurie should have reacted. Some of the sounds of the rcorded voices were also too loud and distracting. Sound cues were executed very well, reacting to what we’d see on stage.
Rockville Little Theatre’s Third was well acted and thought-provoking, and is a show that will have you come away evaluating where you are in your life’s journey. First: do you need to go? Second, do you need to stay? Or third, do you need to change paths altogether?
Shortly after I agreed to direct this play, I came across the following passage in an introduction to Pride and Prejudice:
“Jane Austen’s book is, most importantly, about pre-judging and re-judging. It is a drama of recognition-re-cognition, that act by which the mind can look again at a thing and if necessary make revisions and amendments until it sees the thing as it really is. As such it is thematically related to the dramas of recognition which constitute the tradition of Western tragedy-Oedipus Rex, King Lear, Phedre” (Tony Tanner, Penguin English Library, 1972).
It felt a bit like turning to the back of a book and accidentally stumbling on the answer. Three decades before Third was written, this essayist raised, in regard to the same two works of literature Laurie Jameson teaches in this play (Pride and Prejudice and King Lear), the question of how our perceptions shape our identity. What he found, as Wendy Wasserstein did, is that the process of unmasking one’s own assumptions and most cherished beliefs is not only difficult; it can be completely unmooring. In Third, both Laurie and Jack insist they are who they are and they know what they know. So who do become when the things you thought you knew turn out not to be true? Lear, who calls himself a “dragon” in Act I, says in Act V, “Pray do not mock me./ I am a very foolish fond old man.” Elizabeth Bennet’s humiliating discovery that she has been “wretchedly blind” about Darcy, though less tragic, is no less momentous; she realizes ruefully, “Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
Part o f the reason for the characters’ confusion is their unpredictable environment. Third is set in a world of contradictions, not the least of which is middle age, a time in which Wendy Wasserstein wrote, “things become simultaneously more absurd and overwhelmingly real.” Laurie’s father reverts to childhood at the same time as her daughter becomes an adult; her contemporary, Nancy, looking into the face of her own mortality, finds instead rebirth of a completely unexpected kind. Nothing assured, except the steady forward march of time and its unshakeable companions: disappointment, aging, illness, injustice. But autumn always follows summer, it is equally true that spring follows the winter; as Laurie says, “it’s a question of renewal.”
I am more grateful than I can express to the team of people that has brought Third to life with me: my tireless producers; my designers and crew, who don’t seem to know the word “no”; the peerless Jeff McDermott, for going above and beyond; and, most of all, this remarkable cast, who fearlessly embraced their characters’ ambiguities and contradictions. I salute you.
Photos by Dean Evangelista
- Laurie: Sarah Holt
- Nancy: Jill Goodrich
- Third: Alex Badalov
- Jack: Stuart Rick
- Emily: Diana Partridge
- Recorded Voices: David Dieudonne, Alex Gold, Devon Seybert, Maile Zox
- Producers: Mandy Keating and Dominique Marro
- Director: Lizzi Albert
- Assistant Director: Jeff McDermont
- Stage Manager: Patrick Miller
- Assistant Stage Manager: Stephanie Robinson
- Set Designer: Maggie Modig
- Master Carpenter: David Levin
- Scenic Artist: Maggie Modig
- Construction Crew: Laura Andruski, Eric Henry, Tom Lin, Carl Modig, Robert Ullino
- Properties Designer: Andrea Kibbe
- Set Dressing Designer: Jeff McDermott
- Lighting Designer: Peter Caress
- Lighting Execution: Asma Husna
- Sound Designer: Kevin O’Connell
- Sound Execution: Mike Taylor
- Costume Designer: Crystal Fergusson
- Program Design: Caroline Duffy
- Publicity: Ken Kemp
- Photographer: Dean Evangelista
- Stage Crew: Sheila Golabi, Meem Haque, Mina Haque and Amina Mainuddin
- Load-in Crew: Bruno Falcon, Dean Fiala, William Kolodrubetz, Xaq Rothman, Paul Valentine
- Audition Hosts: Patrick Miller and Collette Moore
- Usher Coordinator: Paula Cook
- Opening Night Reception Coordinator: Fran Levin
Disclaimer: Rockville Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9084.
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.