The newest production from Paducah's Market House Theatre — "Rounding Third," a comedy about baseball and friendships — started Thursday.
The two-man show stars MHT comedy veterans Steve Schwetman and Al Knudsen and runs through March 21. Written by Richard Dresser, the story follows Don and Michael, a pair of youth league coaches clashing over the course of an entire season.
MHT executive director Michael Cochran was eager to produce "Rounding Third" because of how it shows the different ways men form friendships and bond through their differences and competition.
"Like many plays, 'Rounding Third' has two very different people who are thrown together by their desire to help their children grow," Cochran said. "What comes from that is a lot of comedy and some drama as well. It’s also about what it means to be a winner. To feel valued and appreciated by a world full of hard knocks."
Times are 7 p.m. for Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances, and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults and $14 for students and must be purchased by calling the MHT Box Office at 270-444-6828. Social distancing will be observed in the theater, which will be able to hold 50 seats per performance. For a breakdown of COVID-19 safety measures, visit www.markethousetheatre.org. The show will also be available to stream via Broadway On Demand March 18-21 for $18 per streaming ticket. A link to pre-order the stream can be found on the playhouse's website.
The way these two characters clash, to Cochran, is particularly interesting.
"Don sees sports as the way for his son to succeed in life through the stress of competition and winning just like he did. He tells Michael that the kids to avoid having on the team are the kids who want to act in musicals like 'Brigadoon,'" Cochran told The Sun.
"Michael wants his son to experience the joys of playing without the stress of life or winning or losing. Don’s 1950s views of masculinity and relationships clash with Michael’s as they try to navigate the baseball season. Michael’s views, although more modern, still have elements, like so many men, who hold everything inside. When Don is surprised by information Michael has withheld about his life, Don tells him, 'I don’t know who is sitting on the bench next to me. You keep it all bottled up inside, creating a ball of stress that will just build and build and one day explode and kill you.'"
Knudsen and Schwetman "find the humor in their characters by simple looks and shrugs but also have played strong dramatic roles," Cochran said of the leads. "This is a play that depends on the comedy of the characters to get an audience to laugh and not on sight gags or punchlines. Both Steve and Al mine these characters to give us a well-rounded picture of each."
Cochran designed and directed MHT's production of "Rounding Third." Angela Hoerner is as the costume director, and Chris Burnett and Caleb Buford will be the stage crew.
Though Cochran anticipates continuing the theater's streaming efforts going forward, the practice is cost-prohibitive.
"We will record the stream next Tuesday evening after the opening weekend. We use a multi-camera setup and body microphones to get the best quality. It will take a week to edit the video to get the right shots. The whole process is very expensive, but it has helped those who weren’t confident in coming to the theater still see the talent in our community onstage in a normal setting," the executive director said.
"I think long term, streaming will be something we continue in order to reach out to seniors who can’t come to the theater anymore and family members of actors spread across the country ... (but) our main efforts will remain on people who want to see live theater."