REVIEW: Rounding Third Tickles and Touches

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There are many parallels between sports and theatre, though often times it seems like they are at odds. If you like baseball, for instance, people might say you can’t also possibly love the theatre. But as my friend Kathy Sprinkle told me, I’m one of the weirdest people she’s ever met (in a good way) and so how else would I choose to spend my birthday other than watching two of my favorite things collide on stage.

Tonight I was able to catch the final dress rehearsal of ROUNDING THIRD, produced by Henry Cepluch at his Mad Anthony Theatre company.  Director Kevin Brunck has assembled two of Hamilton’s most prolific actors in Brian Sharp (“Don”) and Bill Balfour (“Michael”) to tickle the funny bone and pull at the heart strings in this contemporary comedy.

On the surface, Don is the typical drill-sargeant ex-jock who appears to be living his childhood regrets through his own son and the team.  Michael, on the other hand, believes in the traditional “winning and losing don’t matter, let’s just have fun” attitude. That’s the surface.  But these are layered characters and these actors have the ability to bring out the depth buried within an above average but sometimes uneven script.

Don is a pretty unlikeable guy and he works really hard to keep people at a distance.  In the hands of a less charismatic actor, no one would ever root for him.  But Smith – who is also a gifted physical comedian – projects the warmth of this man even through his angry sarcasm.  We learn that he really does care about these kids . . . and he is a man with many regrets.  At the same time, Balfour’s “Michael” is the kind of the guy I run into a lot . . . he’s almost too nice to be real.  I am always suspicious guys like him are hiding something but usually they really are just honest and kind.  Balfour’s performance feels authentic and when the character finds his footing the actor is right there with him.  It really is inspiring.

As with all of Kevin Brunck’s work, the technical team is top notch.  Brian Kienlen’s sound design enhances the show and I enjoyed the musical selections between scenes and in the pre-show.  Mary Slocum’s set design (and Larry Slocum’s construction) is always good.  In this show, the set is somewhat minimal (though the set pieces are large and very well done) and the small details by props mistress Carol Walker add to the show without distracting from the acting.  Carrie Rusche as stage manager was working hard at this final dress rehearsal (as always) and all the folks in the tech booth (Tracy Botos, Adam Hayward, Haley Goodwin, and perhaps some others) all have worked hard to put this show together under the deft hand of director Brunck.  Kevin is the kind of director who pays attention to the details – he’s hands on – and its evident that this entire company has spent time and effort on producing this fine piece of theatre.

You should check it out, if only for lines like “no need to get emotional . . . we’re not women” or perhaps my favorite, “Would it really kill you to shake your booty.”  Truth is, you might find yourself emotional but if nothing else you’ll find your belly – and maybe your booty – shaking at the comedy contained within.  I’m glad I chose to spend my birthday with Don and Michael.

ROUNDING THIRD opens Thursday, March 6th and runs through Sunday at MAD ANTHONY THEATRE COMPANY at the Fitton Center for the Performing Arts at 101 S. Monument Avenue in Hamilton.  Tickets are available by calling the box office at (513) 863-8873 EXT. 110.

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