By Richard Dresser
Directed by Bob Bartlett
Produced by AccokeekCreek Theatreco
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
One of the few disadvantages about living in a region with such a bounty of theatre riches is that many people might not drive down to Indian Head, MD to catch the DC area premiere of Rounding Third. That’s a real shame because AccokeekCreek Theatreco has mounted a truly excellent and entertaining production of this comedy-drama about two Little League baseball coaches with decidedly different backgrounds and different approaches to youth sports.
Don (Kevin Jiggetts) is the blue collar veteran coach whose commitment to the team is intense bordering on scary. In Don’s world the only fun comes from winning, and he approaches that task with a single-minded purpose. Don spends 55% of his time thinking about the team (25% is about money and the rest involves sex and revenge fantasies). Don is the kind of coach who has his son Jimmy provide him with scouting reports from the schoolyard before the draft of the season’s new replacement players.
Unfortunately for Don he is assigned a new assistant coach Michael (Brian Donohue), which means he can’t scratch Michael’s son Frankie from the roster. Frankie is a boy who wears glasses, has never played organized baseball before turning twelve, and who needs to improve his hitting, fielding, throwing, running, catching, and general knowledge of the game.
From Don’s point of view, assistant coach Michael is a far worse thorn in his side. Michael believes that the fun is in the playing, not the winning or losing. Michael believes that youth sports should be about self-discovery in a safe and nurturing environment. Michael’s youth sports experiences come from his experience with curling in his native Canada. Michael doesn’t know how to hit fungos to the outfields or do convincing dugout chatter. Worst of all, he is frequently late to practice and takes cell phones calls about his white collar job, both unforgiveable sins to Don.
As the season progresses the two men start to learn more about each other as they reveal pieces of their own backstories. Don has to deal with domestic tragedies large and small, a few that are heartbreakingly serious and one that is comically delicious.
Richard Dresser has written a truly sharp play, abundant with humor that arises out of two well-drawn characters.
Kevin Jiggett gives an outstanding performance as Don. It is rare to see an actor so fully inhabit a role with that much intensity. Jiggetts’ Don is a composite of the most extreme youth coaches I have ever witnessed while still being believable and sympathetic. It is a performance to remember (and perhaps relive in the occasional anxiety dream).
Brian Donohue also does fine work. He makes good choices in portraying Michael as an affable and well-meaning newbie to the baseball world. He is especially funny in the scenes of comic discomfort and he has a few nice moments of reluctant personal revelation.
To the credit of director Bob Bartlett, neither actor goes for the sitcom-style laughs. By holding back those impulses, he makes the story much more powerful while still nailing the comic rhythms. This production is the work of a mature director who understands how to sculpt the emotions of each scene. The black box minimal staging works to the production’s advantage by focusing the audience on the actors’ finely hewn performances.
Special kudos also to Ed Moser’s sound design. He incorporates a variety of sounds needed to evoke the atmosphere (ranging from kids playground sounds to rain, a lawn mower, a dog, traffic, a broken windshield, and those annoying cell phone rings) which came in with perfect balance right on cue.
Final word to readers: to heck with fuel prices. This production is worth a few gallons of gas.
Running Time: 1:55 (one intermission).
Where: Black Box Theatre, Indian Head Center for the Arts, 4185 Indian Head Hwy, Indian Head, MD.
When: Through September 28. Thursdays through Saturday nights at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Special dinner & show fundraiser $35) on Sept. 13th, no performance on Sept. 20th.
Tickets: $18 | $15 seniors, students, members, groups of ten or more; Thursday nights all tickets are $10 and high school students are free. For tickets or visit the website.