THEATER REVIEW- THIRD
Reviewer- Howard Steven Frydman
A night out recently at TheaterWorks in Hartford turns out to be a celebration, in fact two joyous events, a production of “Third”, the last play written by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, and the introduction of a new rising “star” Conor Hamill who plays the lead in his first major production since graduating from the Hartt School theater program. This media night evening is brimming with not only CT’s Who’s – Who of theater critics but Conor’s family, friends and an array of his past teachers from the Hartt School including Robert Davis, the ever enchanting Johanna Morrison and Hartt’s Theater Director Alan Rust- each beaming with pride, like a proud parent, in regards to their one time students introduction into the headlining limelight on the TheaterWorks stage. In fact, Freddie McInerney, Director of Marketing at TheaterWorks remarks before the evenings performance, “It’s an amazing transformation, a one time intern, Conor did a bit of everything here at TheaterWorks, and now look – his “face” is everywhere- posters, banners and even on the front page of TheaterWork’s program book of “Third”
From my now usual seat, most rearward in the theater east, I take in this engaging character charged production wholeheartedly quite enjoying WW’s final written bequeath. Though filled with biting diatribes on feminism, politics, Republicans, liberalism, Jane Austin and King Lear – “Third” takes us on a rueful yearlong journey about being contented, the folly of making assumptions and the sunrise and sunset of life. The setting- a small New England liberal arts College and the plays focus on trailblazing, middle aged, College Professor Laurie Jameson (Kate Levy) and her student, the cheerful wrestling jock on scholarship, – Woodson Bull, III (Conor Hamill) or as he likes to be called- “Third”. From the start of the term- both student and Prof literally have a battle of wits and wills- Professor Jameson has “assumed” Woodson is a child of wealth and privilege- yet he is not. The MacGuffin- a paper on “King Lear” – a well-written, intelligently argued paper written by “Third”, yet Professor Jameson is quick to accuse him of plagiarism and turning in a paper that is way beyond his intellectual and cognitive ability and reports his plagiarism to the college’s Committee of Academic Standards.
Secondary tales include Laurie’s best friend and fellow teacher, Nancy Gordon, (portrayed by Andrea Gallo) who is fighting cancer, yet meets her new boyfriend, a rabbi, while they are both receiving chemotherapy, a runaway father with Alzheimer’s who finally has a chance to tell his daughter he is sorry and Laurie’s own daughter who is dating a much older man.
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned stars- however I would be remiss if I did not mention the performance of Kate Levy- who portrays Professor Jameson- one word sums it up- “Puppeteer”! That’s right she pulled all the right strings- talk about acting greatness- I felt like my emotions were being pulled first one way and then another. She had me literally believing she was a royal “b’otch” of a teacher- wow- I really “hated” her – but loved her performance at the same time! A lot of this raw emotion being pulled out of these actors is the work of a great director and in this case, the one and only Rob Ruggiero, otherwise known as the “People’s Director”!
From the very get-go Wasserstein’s play hit home on several personal fronts, from my own college years where I also confronted a Sociology Professor on grading her students based on their SES – Socioeconomic status, to my current position, as a member of the Bloomfield Board of Education, where I am constantly seeking that all teachers urge their students “to be everything they can be”. “Third” is full of Wasserstein’s fast paced dialogue, her views of the world, conscientiously developed characters, hate them or not, and two stars that are not to be missed newcomer Hamill and the captivating Kate Levy. The bottom line on “Third” – its First Rate!!
“Third, by Wendy Wasserstein ” is currently being produced at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. October 1st to November 8th. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday 8:00pm; Weekend Matinee 2:30pm. For tickets or info call TheaterWorks at 860.527.7838.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC.