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THEATER REVIEW: “Rounding Third” is an amusing tribute to baseball

Looking for someone to blame for the perversion of Little League baseball into a drive to win at all costs?

Consider the likes of coach Don (John Nutten).

A blue-collar, beer-swilling house painter by trade, Don has coached his team for seven years on the Red Saunders principle that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Don remembers his own Little League career and the time a teammate lost a playoff game. He doesn’t want that for his team.

His son Jimmy is the team’s star pitcher, Don has a list of kids he doesn’t want on the team, and he threatens errant players with “You’ll find yourself in the spring musical.”

So when he meets his new assistant coach Michael (Walter Murray), a white-collar, chronically late, latte-sipping, cellphone-dependent nerd more interested in the fun quotient of the sport than the final score, sparks can be expected to fly.

And fly they do, delightfully, in Richard Dresser’s amusing “Rounding Third,” playing through June 25 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. Robert May directs.

Michael, you see, is Canadian and lacks history with baseball, though he was on a curling team as a lad. (Curling is played on ice with granite stones.) Michael wants to use baseball as a bonding mechanism with klutzy son Frankie.

This “odd couple” pairing doesn’t break any new ground in the script department (nothing happens here that isn’t fairly predictable), and one could quibble with the overuse of recurring jokes (Dresser is an experienced television writer).

But Dresser has written an amiable story with characters and a philosophical question we can all relate to, and with fine acting and Robert May’s excellent direction, “Rounding Third” is both easy and pleasant to watch.

Nutten gives one of the year’s best performances as the win-at-all-costs coach who nonetheless will learn something from the nebbishy but equally stubborn assistant coach, played with quiet grace by Murray.

A simple but effective set design by Mark Robertson and terrific sound beds by Steve Murdock add to the atmosphere.

“It’s about faith, believing,” says Don of the American pastime.

Maybe. But for us, it’s about a fun time at the ballpark.

The details

“Rounding Third” plays through June 25 at Scripps Ranch Theatre on the Alliant International University campus.

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets call (858) 578-7728 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.