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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: ‘Rounding Third’ a homerun at Chester Theatre Group

Rounding third1

The final offering of the Chester Theatre Group's 2014-15 season is Richard Dresser’s “Rounding Third.” This is a funny, albeit quirky, two character baseball themed play that will resonate particularly with the male family member who ever participated in Little League baseball or at least dreamed of playing center field for the New York Yankees (this writer). However, most women will also cheer this tale of two men whose lives could not be more different. One is a business executive, the other a blue-collar house painter. They have vastly different ideas how to raise their sons, but yet develop a non-traditional friendship. Both men are volunteer Little League coaches.

First, there is Don (Nick Leone) the veteran team coach who is of the Vince Lombardi school of coaching...'winning is everything!' Second, is Michael (Matt Meier) don’t call him Mike, a Canadian transplant who is a bit of a geek with absolutely no knowledge of baseball (now Curling is another matter). Michael is of the school that Little League should be fun with no emphasis on winning. Don's son is the star pitcher of the team, whereas Michael's son has a few minor baseball deficiencies....he can't catch, throw or hit.

The biggest directing challenge is the fact that the play is almost totally dialogue driven... presented in the round via a series of vignettes by only two actors who speak directly to the audience. Amazingly, director Jeff Knapp has impressively overcome these challenges with creative use of the Black River Theatre's unique performing spaces, minimal props and excellent casting (we can't resist the obvious: Jeff Knapp has "hit a homerun").

The actors, Nick Leone and Matt Meier, both give first rate performances. Matt Meier as Michael, nicely projects a properly sensitive, caring father who is trying to adjust to recent professional and family trauma. Nick Leone could not be more spot-on as Don. He transitions perfectly from an enthusiastic in-control baseball fanatic to a humbled, pained man who has his neat little personal world turned inside out.

You will have to see this touching play to sort it all out. The play is loaded with funny one-liners as it rotates between comedy and drama, again we don't want to spoil your fun with plot details.

The message: Richard Dresser via this odd-couple wants us to think seriously about what we teach kids about sports; he wants us to think about what we teach them about life.

Director Knapp's creative team includes: Roseann Ruggiero, producer; Barbara Henderson, stage manager and props; Mindy Knapp, costumes; Steve Catron and Kevern Cameron, set design and construction; Ellen Fraker-Glasscock, lighting design; Jerry Lane, lights and sound control; Jeff Knapp, sound design.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  May 1, 2015

The play runs about 85 minutes plus one 15 minute intermission.

The remaining performances are tonight May 2 through May 9, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm and next Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. General Admission for all performances is $20, with a $2 discount given to seniors (over 65) and students (under 18 with ID). All seating, with the exception of CTG Patrons, is on a first-come, first serve basis.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.chestertheatregroup.org or by clicking the “Book Now” button on our Facebook homepage. Courtesy reservations can be made by calling 908-879-7304. Please note that all reservations must be picked up no later than 15 minutes prior to the performance start time. Given the nature of the auditorium latecomers will be seated only at the discretion of the Box Office Manager.

Black-River-Playhouse-chester The Chester Theatre Group performs in The Black River Playhouse, an intimate, 100-seat theater in the heart of Chester Borough’s historic district. The venue’s in-the-round format ensures that every seat offers an engaging, memorable experience for each audience member. The theater is located on the corner of Grove Street and Maple Avenue. For more information, visit the CTG website at http://www.chestertheatregroup.org/

 

Top Photo: Matt Meier and Nick Leone  (photo by Jeff Knapp)

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