Tuesday, April 01, 2008

(partial) opening-weekend review of *Rounding Third*

at Spokane Interplayers Ensemble through April 12

You don’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy *Rounding Third.* After all, one of its two characters isn’t.
Michael (Reed McColm) has a demanding white-collar job and no baseball skills whatever. And he’s Canadian. That’s three strikes right there.
Richard Dresser’s play follows Michael over the course of a season in his adventures as the assistant coach of a Little League team. His biggest problem? The head coach. Don (Tony Caprile) is an arrogant, passive-aggressive control freak who’s living in the past because he can’t face up to his failures in the present.

McColm plays Michael with boyish charm and gawkiness. The wimp may not be a jock, but he’s quite capable of firing back at Don and defending himself. And Don seems like every over-intense, insecure Little League coach you've seen in the movies — until he displays the odd bit of psychological acumen or evidence of compassion for his players. After all, they’re only little boys. Repeatedly, Caprile makes the right choice in not sentimentalizing such moments: He’s got a soft side but doesn’t particularly want to dwell on it.
Caprile has deepened his voice and exaggerated his swagger for this role, but sometimes it doesn’t go far enough. Don has some intolerant rants (against artsy people, against anybody who doesn’t live and die for baseball, basically), and they need to be uglier. So do Don’s many slurs and personal attacks. On the other hand, two violent outbursts — one startling, one amusing — were executed masterfully. And Caprile also shows us how tightly wound Don is — how perceptive and articulate, despite all the steely intolerance. It’s a rounded characterization.
In fact, there were several moments of quiet tension between Caprile and McColm, with the crowd hushed and menace lurking just beneath the joshing and the banter. That’s because Maynard Villers has directed with admirable restraint. Sometimes the tense exchanges are nose-to-nose, but often they’re played in the stretched-out, no-eye-contact way of men who are having an important conversation but don’t want to acknowledge the fact. The set, designed by Villers, is a stylized, miniature baseball field; the scoreboard remains blank, beckoning us to evaluate what we think of Dresser and Don and Michael.

(For the rest of this review, pick up a copy of the 4/3/08 *Inlander.*) And thanks for reading.


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