Top-notch acting makes Rounding Third a winner
ASPEN Among the lessons Jay Sandrich learned in his decades directing television sitcoms is that casting a show is paramount. He became a master of the art of casting; on several shows, like The Golden Girls, Sandrich was brought in for the early stages, helped cast the program, directed a few episodes, and then left it in the hands of other directors.Theatre Aspens production of Rounding Third, directed by Sandrich, is proof of several things. One, that casting can be as important on the live stage as it as on the small screen. Two, that Sandrich who was closely involved with such sitcoms as The Cosby Show, Soap and The Mary Tyler Moore Show has a great eye for talent. And three, that casting can make or break virtually any performance, no matter the medium.Leaving the opening night of Rounding Third last Thursday, at the Theatre Aspen Tent in Rio Grande Park, virtually all of the buzz was about the actors. As it should have been. The two-person cast of Kevin Stapleton and Richard Gallagher made the show, and its hard to see Rounding Third having the snap and zip and sense of fun with actors of a lower caliber.Rounding Third, written by Richard Dresser and first performed in 2002, plays off the Odd Couple template. Here, Felix and Oscar are transplanted from Manhattan to the sidelines of a Little League field in suburban America. Felix is now Michael (Gallagher), a chipper, hard-working white collar type who sees Little League as an opportunity to develop sportsmanship and teamwork, and above all, have fun. Oscar is Don (Stapleton), a construction worker with a beer, a temper, and an unshakable faith in Vince Lombardis dictum that winning is everything even for adolescent boys on the baseball field. Stapleton, as the loud, aggressive half of this ill-matched duo, and as the more experienced baseball coach, charges out of the gates and threatens to leave Gallagher in the dust, acting-wise. But Gallagher, who needs time and lines to reveal his character, eventually catches up as he reveals his tragic backstory.As a work of writing, Rounding Third is good enough to give the actors something to work with. The arc of the story is predictable: In the first act, Michael and Don establish their clashing personalities and their differing views on life, love and Little League. Theres plenty of opportunity for humor in how badly mismatched they are, and Stapleton, especially, plays it for broad laughs. With his spot-on portrayal, Stapleton delivers. His Don is a loud, never-back-off American dad, so the performance, while oversized, doesnt feel overdone. In a nice twist from the actual Odd Couple, Don has some obsessive traits that were foreign to Oscar Madison Dons insistence on punctuality, for instance.The second act, as any audience member must know, is for pathos: digging deeper into their pasts and battling on a less superficial level, the two eventually bond and learn something by looking through one anothers eyes. The poignancy in this is muted; the ending hardly has the emotional wallop of a walk-off home run. This is almost strictly for fun and laughs. Michael, a knock-off of The Simpsons Ned Flanders minus the crush on God, but with the dead wife and all would approve.To twist another sports adage for Rounding Third: Casting isnt everything its the only thing. Rounding Third comes out a winner because its actors do a dynamite job with a routine script.
Rounding Third shows on Saturday, July 19 and Monday, July 21, with additional dates through Aug. 22 in Theatre Aspens season of rotating firstname.lastname@example.org
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