Examples of theater and film works using sports metaphors to expound on the game of life are plentiful. Some use humor; others inspiring drama. In the case of Richard Dresser’s Rounding Third, now onstage at Florida Studio Theatre’s Gompertz Theatre, humor takes the fore, for a play that’s entertaining and occasionally touching, if not deeply meaningful.
This is a two-character play about two Little League coaches with very different personalities and approaches to life. Don (Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper) is the tough, often insensitive working-class stiff for whom coaching has been a big part of his existence and self-image for years. Michael (Timothy C. Goodwin) is a nerdy newbie to the game, and he takes a more “it’s all about having fun” attitude, while Don is in it for the wins.
So at first they clash, of course, with the assertive Don pushing around Michael, whom he annoys simply by calling him Mike. But as the baseball season wears on, we get to know these men and their individual vulnerabilities better, and learn there’s more than meets the eye in their personal struggles.
Although there are just the two actors, working on a set design by Brian Dudkiewicz that features a green field, a wooden fence and some background baseball visuals, and we don’t meet any of their young team members, we feel that we have. We can easily visualize the action on the field as the coaches shout out instructions and encouragement to a fairly typical group of kids—their own sons, Don’s skilled at the sport and Michael’s not; novices who run at the wrong time or miss easy catches; those who cry at their own mistakes—through the descriptive dialogue. Likewise, it’s easy enough to visualize Don’s unseen wife, Linda, or his former coaching buddy, whom he just can’t help comparing to Michael, to Michael’s detriment.
We get a good picture of these men’s lives off the field as well as on, along with a few gentle laughs during the course of a two-hour evening. And the actors are well-cast, and well-directed (by Jason Cannon); based on their performances here, these two could be a hit as a comedy team, sparring effectively as opposites, as the best comedy teams often do. If, as noted, Rounding Third doesn’t dig too deeply, it doesn’t intend to; and audiences will most likely respond to the men and the story with affection.
Rounding Third continues through Aug. 29; for tickets call (941) 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.