Billed as the perfect theater outing for ballet/opera/classical music-sick guys this Spoleto season, Village Playhouse’s Rounding Third explores the intricacies of life in the Little Leagues. Directed by Keely Enright and starring local actors Josh Wilhoit and Thomas Burke Heath, the show returns after a successful run just over a year ago.
Even though the subject of the play is a no-brainer for male audiences, I entered the theater wondering if they’d really want to watch a two-man show — regardless of the subject — that lasts nearly two hours. And will the females in the audience want to call foul after the first act? Thankfully, the answer is no. Playwright Richard Dresser’s dialogue is quick and constantly amusing, and the chemistry between the two actors is just downright fun to watch — classic opposites attract.
Wilhoit plays Don (NOT Donald), the hard-ass Little League coach whose only goal in life is to win. He’s insensitive, crass, and not above cheating (both on the field and off). He’s the too-intense coach that makes you cringe when he starts spouting profanities at the grade-school kid who missed the ball. But he’s got his soft side, too. He leads the team in the Macarena to loosen up. He goes to great lengths to procure snacks for the kids. And he keeps a record of all of the kids’ home lives to better understand what he’s dealing with.
Heath is Michael (NOT Mike, or Mikey) the nerd’s widower father who eagerly takes the assistant coach position. With no knowledge of baseball and a super spazzy way about him, he constantly tries Don’s patience. “Let the kids be the captains of their own ships!” he says. Don is obviously not a fan of this philosophy, not on “his” field.
The predictable happens, in the most amusing way. Don and Michael become sort-of friends, and they learn from each other. In the second act, just when the Playhouse’s vinyl seats start to feel a little too uncomfortable and you start to tire of all the Little League humor, real life intrudes on the men and the importance of the team — and it’s insignificance — comes to light. And while we laugh at the jokes that keep going throughout, we can’t help but ponder the effect these childhood games have had on our adult selves.
Rounding Third is a simple show: the set is a batting cage in front of a black backdrop, and everything else — from the other characters to the setting — is imaginary. It’s just two men and a lot of funny lines. And it works. It’s a hit with the guys, obviously; kids, if you don’t mind the occasional curse word; and even the ladies, who probably sat through a son or brother’s endless games and thus were witness to it all. —Erica Jackson