By John Burton
HOLMDEL – Rounding Third is about more than baseball and for its stars, Jim Stanek and Michael Basile, that was the draw and the real appeal of the play as they prepared to take it to the stage at the Holmdel Theatre Company.
They also loved the play’s humor.
“I don’t think it just appeals to guys who like baseball or don’t go to the theater,” Stanek said of the production, which opened Sept. 21 and will run through Oct. 6 at the Duncan Smith Theater, 36 Crawford Corner Road.
Rounding Third penned by prolific playwright Richard Dresser, is a two-character comedy about two fathers – very different – whose sons play on the same Little League team.
Basile’s “character is playing to win; mine is just about having fun,” Stanek said.
The bottom line is, “it’s very funny,” said director Mary Lynn Dobson, with a smile and shrug. “You’ll laugh until you … don’t.”
As a character study, the play – like baseball – has heart. “The fact that these two guys become friends” makes it a very appealing work, she said.
Baseball, for Basile, “becomes a metaphor for what’s important.”
“Both characters go through a change,” Stanek said. “I’m hoping the audience goes through it too.”
Stanek and Basile are members of Actor’s Equity, a union representing actors and stage managers. Both men come to the Holmdel production with long resumes.
Stanek, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and three young sons, has performed on Broadway in Indiscretions, a revival of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and a number of off-Broadway and regional productions.
Basile, who hails from Brooklyn, has appeared off-Broadway and in TV’s Law & Order franchise and on such soap operas as One Life To Live and As The World Turns. He’s next slated to appear in a production of Odets’s Golden Boy, while continuing to work as a New York City firefighter.
“You can’t always choose the job you get. I have to support my family,” Stanek said. “But this is something that I like and I believe in the character.” That allowed him to gladly accept the invitation to appear in Rounding Third.
For Basile, part of the appeal is to again work in a comedic role, something, he said, his style is particularly suited. And, of course, it’s about baseball. “There is something about baseball. It’s part of our character.” Even those who don’t really follow the game, know how it’s played, and that it really doesn’t change. “You could go back in a time machine to 1908 and you would see the same game,” Basile said.
That conjured up memories of when Stanek played Little League. “I wasn’t particularly good,” he said but it allowed him to relate to his co-star’s feelings.
Stanek accepted the role, in no small part, for the chance to again work with Dobson. He appeared in Two on the Aisle, Three in the Van, a comedy written by Dobson and performed as part of the New York Fringe Festival a couple of summers ago.
“I would have made any sacrifice to work on this with her,” he said.
Dobson, a Middletown resident, has directed works for regional theaters around New Jersey. She has had her work as a playwright, including The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood and Skin Deep published and produced around the country and overseas.
Dobson, who previously directed Rounding Third in another regional theater, said she is drawn to the play because of its intimacy with a small cast, which works well in the approximately 100-seat Duncan Smith Theater.
“As an actor you get a real workout,” she said.
The bottom line, though, is that the participants see the production as fun, with a little bit of sentiment to sweeten it, much like Field of Dreams or The Natural, Dobson said.
“You know life is hard and every once in a while you shouldn’t have to work that hard,” and be able to enjoy yourself, especially when coming to the theater, she said.
Theatergoers may see Rounding Third at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 – 29 and Oct. 5 – 6; and at 2 p.m. Sunday Sept. 30. Tickets are available by visiting the Holmdel Theatre Company’s website at www.holmdeltheatrecompany.org.