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'Rounding Third' hits home

For millions of proud fathers, the coming of spring can only mean one thing: It's time to dust off the old glove, warm up the old arm and force their unwilling children to play Little League.

In Richard Dresser's raucous and schmaltzy comedy "Rounding Third," Kaleidoscope Theatre shows us the trials of Little League coaching from the perspective of two fathers. And most of the time, it isn't pretty.

This play is directed at those normally not inclined to see theater, but it's sure to strike a chord with anyone who was ever dragged onto that miniature diamond or stared into the dandelions in center field for six innings.

Kaleidoscope's Matthew Slazak and Keith Wharton make a valiant and often endearing effort at embodying two coaches of wildly differing strategies and personalities. Wharton, as the hypermasculine head coach focused on winning at all costs, is appropriately furious but drops lines as often as his right fielder drops the ball.

Slazak shines as Michael, a clueless but good-natured assistant coach who simply wants the team's players to be "proud captains of their own little ships."

His impossibly wholesome nature is modernistically sappy, and his attempts to inject his somewhat New Age philosophy are always imbued with a dorky smile and attitude that would get him a black eye in some sports circles.

These diametrically opposed coaching strategies make for some wonderfully heated exchanges between the two, whose relationship starts off as a solid block of ice that eventually starts to melt.

Any play with just two actors better be continuously captivating, but "Rounding Third" runs on a bit too long, though the pace is brisk enough. It also contains some contrived sources of conflict between the coaches that at times seem stretched but that do allow for a somewhat deeper examination of their relationship.

Slazak and Wharton work well together onstage, and it's clear that there's a level of comfort between them that has developed from years of acting together.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

***

"Rounding Third"

3 stars (out of 4)

Comedy running through June 23 presented by Kaleidoscope Theatre in Marie Maday Theatre, Canisius College, 2001 Main St.

For more information, call 629-8548.

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