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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
The two home run hitters in the New York premiere that opened Tuesday at the Houseman Theater are Matthew Arkin and Robert Clohessy. And what a made-for-each other pair of totally incompatible coaches for the same Little League Team they are!
Clohessy is terrific as a beer drinking blue collar guy (he's a house painter when not Coach Don). Don is an experienced, hard-driving coach, and himself an ex-athlete. Arkin's Assistant Coach Michael is a cell-phone carrying, businessman who prefers Latte to beer and believes Little Leaguers should be more concerned with the fun of playing than winning or losing. Even when he seems content to be Clohessy's nerdish "straight man" a strong streak of stubborn courage is evident enough to make the turnaround in this mismatched relationship completely convincing.
The whole setup of the opposites thrown together by the simple fact that each has a twelve-year-old son smacks of stereotype and the situations developing from their differences are indeed stereotypical. Don's son is, as might be expected, the team's star pitcher while Michael's can't pitch or catch, or even keep his shoelaces tied. Don's romance with one of the kids' moms not only turns out to be mere bravado whereas his wife turns out to be having a very real affair with a man he considered a friend. Michael's career is also something of a facade.
Mr. Dresser, abetted by Arkin and Clohessy's spot-on timing, proves that good writing can make even stock situations work. He has an uncanny knack for making hairpin turns from funny to serious -- and back to funny before seriousness (as when Michael talks about his wife's death) has a chance to become maudlin.
Given his deft gift for writing comedy with serious underpinnings, one wonders why Mr. Dresser felt it necessarily to lean so heavily on some of the shtick about Michael fighting Don's insistence on calling him Mike or Mikey and fitting the team's gear into a bag that seems too small. John Rando, master of snap-crackle-pop pacing, while keeping this production moving along with nary a moment of tedious bench sitting, seems to have allowed these flaws, or what Gordon Osmond referred to as the "cork in the bat, " to carry over from the previous productions.
Derek McLane has turned the Houseman's space into a reasonable facsimile of a Little League playing field in a park of a small town near any big city, complete with a chain link fence and a parking area in which to park and make good use of Don's van. Since I saw quite a lot of teenagers in the audience on the night I attended a caveat: Anyone expecting Field of Dreams will be disappointed. No chance of catching a real stray fly ball, just two entertaining hours getting to know two ordinary but inordinately likeable guys who happen to be Little League coaches.
Reviews of Rounding Third in Laguna Beach and San Diego
Review of a previous Off-Broadway produced Dresser comedy, Gun-Shy
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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