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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Rounding Third at Intiman Theatre

Also see David's review of La Bête

Rounding Third
Michael David Edwards and
Richard Ziman

The 2006 season at Intiman gets off to a shaky start with Rounding Third, a comedy/drama about a pair of baseball Dads that begs the question, who is the intended audience for this play? Clearly not the regular Intiman crowd, a fair portion of whom didn't stay for act two on opening night. Certainly not Seattle's baseball fans who are all ready root, root, rooting for the home team Mariners over at Qwest field. Oh sure, there are a few hit shows that have had baseball as an element or a backdrop; certainly the perennially popular musical Damn Yankees and the hilarious, moving and controversial Take Me Out come to mind. But both shows had really interesting stories to tell, whereas Richard Dresser's tepid script reminded me more of a faded carbon copy of another, better play, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.

The couple in this play consists of blowhard, know-it-all coach Don and nerdy, neophyte assistant coach Michael. Don's son is the star of the team, at least initially, and Michael's stepson by his late wife is a kid playing in Little League ball for the first time, just before he reaches the age when kids become ineligible. Maybe, just maybe, if Dresser had populated the stage with two more actors to play these kids, it might have worked better. Alas, their Dads just talk about them. Dresser's script is all very talky, some of it mildly amusing, such as the revelation that Don's son has deserted sports for the world of musical theatre dance when he takes a part in a production of Brigadoon. Pathos is ladled on when we learn about Michael's loss of his wife (which took place prior to the beginning of the play) and Don's loss of his wife to his best friend, an affair inadvertently revealed by Michael. And the pair bickers. And bickers. When Michael reveals an annoying clicking sound Don makes, it is supposed to be hysterically funny, but how can it be when it is a gimmick so blatantly borrowed (and barely re-worked) from Simon's famous character Felix Unger.

Director BJ Jones' slack pacing makes this slight piece seem a good deal longer than it is, but he has at least cast two actors who bring their all to this unworthy enterprise. Michael David Edwards is quite engaging as Michael, the Dad who just wants his son to have one moment of glory on the ballfield and practically wets himself with joy when that big moment (inevitably) arrives. Richard Ziman keeps the ever so obnoxious Don from becoming an annoying character, winning the audience's sympathy when he is reduced to living in his car after his wife's betrayal. The pair works marvelously together as they grow closer and more accepting of each other's foibles. They are so good, in fact, that you wish that they had something meatier to chew on, script-wise.

Bill Forrester's Little League ballpark setting is about all you could ask for, and the more than capable lighting design is by Greg Sullivan. Still, this is a pretty weak opener for a company that has flourished so under Bart Sher's artistic direction. With Sher so much in demand now in NYC, I am keeping my fingers crossed that middling fare like Rounding Third isn't going to become the norm, rather than the exception at Intiman.

Rounding Third runs through May 14 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer Street in Seattle Center. For more information go on-line at www.Intiman.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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