The Village Playhouse opened a new production of the Richard Dresser comedy Rounding Third on Friday night. It’s directed by Keely Enright and features Josh Wilhoit (left) Thomas Burke Heath. Will Bryan, CP theater critic, went to check it out. He sent us this review. The show picks up again on Thursday. More details below. —JS
If laughter is good for what ails you, then anyone who needs a little medicine should make a trip out to Mount Pleasant to the Village Playhouse’s production of Rounding Third from playwright Richard Dresser.Under the skillful hand of director Keely Enright, the story of two dads, both little league coaches, starts out funny, gets funnier, and finishes hilariously yet satisfyingly, plus all the pauses for laughter.
The weakest part of the production comes from the playwright in his use of stereotypes. This is the story of one dad, Don, who is a winning-is-everything coach, and his new assistant, Michael, who thinks that everyone should just have fun. Still, it’s the familiarity with their types and their natures that allows the audience to so rapidly pick up on the excellent dialogue and situations provided by Dresser. Josh Wilhoit, as Don, and Thomas Burke Heath, as Michael, start out the show at full speed and never let up.
Often in comedic theater, especially on opening night, the start can be sluggish and unsure, since what seems funny to the director and cast might not be what the audience finds amusing.
The Playhouse production suffers no such problems, with the audience laughing out loud within one minute of the show’s opening, and then continuously for the next two hours.
It takes strong performances to hold the stage with only two actors, especially over a two-act play. Wilhoit and Heath hit homeruns (yes, the first of the baseball allusions), wearing their characters like comfortable gloves and possessing a sense of comedic timing that lets them steal the audience, scoring repeatedly in a show that is second-to-none this season in the Charleston region.
And while there are only the two actors on stage, so convincing is their acting that by the time the play concludes it seems like many of the boys on their team were with them on stage, just a little out of sight.
The stage is one of the more simple designs from talented set designer David Reinwald, but it works all the same. The majority of the stage is taken up by a baseball chain link backdrop, while still allowing room for a subtly worked-in bar location, school gym, and most impressively, the back of a full-sized late-model POS van. Sound clips between scenes are superbly chosen and add well to the effect of the show as a whole.
Once more the Playhouse makes great use of all their available space, and while their time in their current location might be winding down, it is still amazing what they are able to accomplish when everything clicks.
Heath is great as the wishy-washy dad who just wants his son to feel like he belongs one time. He is able to hold his own against punchline after punchline from Wilhoit, which is saying a lot since playing the straight man is often the more challenging role.
Wilhoit’s gotta-win-at-any-cost dad is also a stereotype, but the actor doesn’t let that stop him from giving the character a true sense of drive and even a hint of desperation to see in his son what he no longer sees in himself. They let the audience have their laughs, making sure lines are not lost in the laughter, yet never let it slow the pace of the show.
Pulling off a straight comedy, not a romantic one, or a musical one, takes a lot of guts, effort, and sheer bravado. Enright and the cast and crew deliver a must-see production, especially for anyone looking for a little pick-me-up after a long hard week. This is the funniest play that has graced area stages this season and will be a hard benchmark to beat for coming years as well.
Presented by the Village Playhouse
March 27-29, April 4-5, 8 p.m.
Mar. 30, 3 p.m.
730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
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