By Daniel Skora
Baseball has often been called a metaphor for life. It’s played on a field of green which serves as a constant reminder that life is best lived in natural surroundings. While many get to play the whole nine innings, some get pulled early. No one succeeds every time, but there’s always another chance at redemption. You can steal if you want to, but sometimes you’ll get caught and have to suffer the consequences. Ask any young buck how his romancing the new office secretary is going and he’s apt to tell you that he can’t even get past first base, or, worse yet, that he’s struck out. Some will even point to the fact that baseball can be found in the Bible. It begins, after all, with the words “In the big inning”.
It’s in keeping with this jocular interpretation of the national pastime that Williamston Theatre is presenting “Rounding Third”, a comedy about two little league baseball coaches with differing views on life and how the game is played. Don (John Lepard) is a sports guy through and through. He’s been coaching the team for years and will do anything to win. He plays only his best players, benches anyone who crosses him, and lets his son be the pitcher. When he’s not barking orders at his team, he loves his beer and giving you the winky-wink when he thinks the mother of a player is having the hots for him.
Michael (Tobin Hissong) has volunteered to be an assistant coach. He’s an all-around straight guy (don’t call him Mike or Mikey) who thinks that baseball should be fun for the kids and that everyone should get a chance to play. He shows up dressed in office casual, and believes that a latte is a great substitute for a plug of Day’s Work. The two clash immediately. Michael arrives late for his first practice, irritating the punctual-minded Don. And Michael immediately begins getting interrupted with cell phones calls from his boss at work. But this is a comedy, and Don’s displeasure can only be meted out with smirky smiles and disbelieving looks.
The season that follows is both hilarious and harrowing. Half of the time they’re dealing with issues that concern the team. The other half has personal matters getting in the way. You can just about guess what you get when you mix the yin with the yang, something like yinang or yaning or whatever it is that’s a combination of both. In the course of their relationship, Don and Michael both change. A little bit of each rubs out on the other, like pine tar or rosin. Baseball may always be the same, but those who play the game are always evolving.
“Rounding Third” is a feel-good comedy with lots of laughs, smiles, and good feelings. Playwright Richard Dresser has an ear for comedy and an eye for the human condition. He tells neither jokes nor one-liners, but has a way of setting up a situation early on that turns into laughter later. The play is a rerun of sorts, if it’s at all possible to rerun live theatre. The show was the first production of Williamston’s inaugural season nine years ago. This, Williamston’s tenth, finds Don and Michael still jawing with each other over how to run a team. The returning duo of Lepard and Hissong are still wearing their baseball caps and though their hair may be grayer beneath, they’ve also added nine more years of theatre smarts to the books.
Tony Caselli is at the helm of “Rounding Third”, a show that hits it out of the park (See, there’s that baseball as metaphor thing again!). Costumes are by Holly Iler, scenic design by Amber Marisa Cook, and props, a whole lot of baseball paraphernalia and collectibles, are by Michelle Raymond. “Rounding Third” runs through November 1st. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 517. 655.7469 or ordered online up until 24 hours prior to a performance at www.williamstontheatre.org. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 South Putnam Street in downtown Williamston (Exit 117 off of I-96).