Theatre Review: ATI’s “Rounding Third”

On Friday, September 3, 2010 I drove over to the Carmel Community Playhouse at Clay Terrace to see Actors’ Theatre of Indiana’s presentation of “Rounding Third,” written by Richard Dresser and directed by Don Farrell.  ATI is the only fully professional theatre company in Hamilton County.

What the Show Is About:

Two dads coach their sons in Little League baseball while they coach each other, much more reluctantly, in life.

Artistic Considerations:

The two characters seem to be completely, unbearably, different…and yet they subtly mirror each other, too, in fascinating ways.  Roger Ortman plays Don, a brash, blue collar, veteran Little League coach who is so committed to coaching his team to a winning season that he is oblivious to the needs of his own wife and son.  Nick Carpenter plays Michael, a diffident, white collar, newbie assistant coach who just wants each boy to have fun playing the game.  They seem to be complete opposites, yet Don is sensitive and kind enough to know which of his players is having trouble at home and to keep that boy after practice for extra coaching and Michael is forceful enough to take over coaching the team when he has to.  They also both passive-aggressively ignore simple requests from each other.  Don ignores Michael’s request to be called Michael instead of Mike or Mikey, for example.  Michael ignores Don’s request that everyone arrive 30 minutes before game time.  These are just a couple of examples of why it is fascinating to watch these two men interact.

The two actors portray their two characters’ complexities brilliantly.  They also make it very easy to believe that there are teams of boys and crowds of other parents close by. 

I don’t think it is a spoiler to tell you that I loved the show all the way up to the final minute, which at first I hated, but later, after much mental chewing, I came to appreciate as the ending that makes the most sense in terms of the integrity of the plot and the integrity of the characters.  Now I love the show as a whole for being unpredictable yet satisfying, sort of like a well-thrown curve ball pitch.

Director Don Farrell’s scenic design and Gary W. DeMumbrum’s lighting design make good use of the small CCP stage by dividing it into three areas and using two swivel panels and a chain link fence.  We go easily from pizza parlor to ball park to gymnasium and more.   I especially loved the set pieces for the scenes in which the two men sit in Don’s van.

I also loved how the men’s clothes changed as they themselves changed during the course of the play.  I couldn’t help hoping that Champs restaurant and sports bar had paid ATI a “product placement” fee or something in real life for getting its name on the guys’ uniforms as the team sponsor in the play, but when I looked online to see if there was a Champs in Clay Terrace shopping center, which is where the Carmel Community Playhouse is, I learned that the Champs chain I was thinking of is actually called Champps Americana, spelled with two “p”’s.  Ah, well.   (Costume & props designed by Karen Webster.)

Stage manager Jeremy M. Cales’ sound design includes convincing sounds of bats knocking baseballs and rain pouring down.

Appeal and Audience Factors:

This is another variation on the now classic “Odd Couple” story but with more complexity in the characters and, of course, the new setting, so it feels completely fresh, even surprising.  It is a funny show but there is also a lot of satisfying stuff to chew on in terms of the value of competition, the mysteries of friendship, the intricacies of communication, and more.  It is fascinating to watch as the two men reveal both their strengths and their blind spots.

Also, if you, like me, are drawn to just about any kind of baseball story from the old “Bad News Bears” movie to the newly published (and wonderful) novel Diamond Ruby, by Joseph E. Wallace, I bet you will enjoy this baseball play, too.

This is a play for adults but even with the occasional mild curse word and references to death and divorce, it has a clean, wholesome, humorous feel to it, tinged with wistfulness.

Box Office Info:

ATI’s “Rounding Third” continues at the Carmel Community Playhouse through Sunday, September 26, 2010.  To make a reservation, please call 317-669-7983.  For more information, please see www.actorstheatreofindiana.org.

Notes from the Curtain Talk:

  • I was delighted to hear Don Farrell say during his curtain talk for “Rounding Third” that ATI’s production of “Frog and Toad” will be back at the Pike Performing Arts Center on December 3, 4, and 5.   I loved that show when I saw it two years ago and was sad that they couldn’t offer it again last holiday season.  I’m glad it is back!
  • I was intrigued to hear about the world premiere of ATI’s original musical, “Stardust Memories,” celebrating the songs of Indiana’s own Hoagy Carmichael, on November 4 and 5, 2010, at the Frank & Katrina Basile Theatre at the Indiana History Center
  • And I was impressed to hear that ATI got the rights to do “Chicago: the Musical!”  They will do this show in April, 2011 to open their residency as the only professional theatre company at the soon-to-open Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. 

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and www.twitter.com/indytheatre

(Photos above and below provided by director Don Farrell.  Nick Carpenter is at left, Roger Ortman at right in both.  Update:  the photos were taken by Bayley Godzeski.)

3 thoughts on “Theatre Review: ATI’s “Rounding Third””

  1. Dear Hope,

    Thanks for coming to ROUNDING THIRD Hope and I am glad you enjoyed the production! I just wanted to let you know the photos were taken by Bayley Godzeski.

    Regards,
    Don

  2. Thanks very much, Don! I always like to give photographers credit when I can, so I appreciate your giving me this info. I added it to the post itself, too.

    Wish I had time to see “Rounding Third” again. Break a leg with the rest of your run!

    Best,

    Hope

  3. Hey Hope!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to see the show and the great astute critique as well.

    Take Care,
    Roger

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