Curtain Call: Third: A first rate play at Eastbound

Eastbound Theatre, Milford: Wendy Wasserstein’s Third is a grand, intelligent play. It’s about making assumptions and judgments about people without really knowing them. Currently, Eastbound Theatre offers a pretty good production of this play with some outstanding performances.

The plot centers on a college student, Woodson Bull III, and an English professor, Laurie Jameson, a feminist pioneer. She doesn’t understand why the student, who prefers to be called Third (hence the title of the play), plans on being a sports agent, and suggests that he transfer to another school. After all, she assumes he is a rich, white guy attending her very liberal class. She is quick to judge him as a rich conservative. Conflict arises when he turns in a paper on King Lear. It is so well written that she accuses him of plagiarism. How can a wrestler write such an intellectual overview of the entire play? She brings him in front of the school’s board. They recognize the student’s knowledge and he is exonerated. She is astonished by the decision that his work is original.

Adding to this insightful play is the fact that the professor’s daughter meets Third in a bar and she discovers how unfair her mother has been and how she misjudged the background of the student completely. The problem is the professor’s ability to get beyond the feminism and extreme liberalism that has brought so much fame and academic attention. Third tells her that she sees him as “a living dead white man.”

Considering it was reported that Wasserstein considers herself a New York liberal, there is another level to this play that suggests that, perhaps, Wasserstein wants people to recognize that they might be wrong in their assumptions and judgments.

Nancy A. Herman directs this play with deep insight into issues of identity crisis, changing times, and narrow-mindedness. She gives wide breadth to the actors who fill in the character’s roles appropriately. Nathan Tracy as Woodson Bull III delivers a memorable and passionate performance. His character is a genuine gentleman and a scholar. Betzabeth Castro also delivers a natural and characterization of Emily, the professor’s daughter.

Linda Gilmore has the task of playing Professor Laurie Jameson. It’s not easy to take on because Wasserstein didn’t structure that character as well as she did the supportive roles. The professor throws names around and lectures so much on King Lear that her character is not developed as strongly as it could have been. Nonetheless, Gilmore tackles the challenge with bravado. Also in the cast is Frank Panzer, playing Jack Jameson. All the actors do a fine job with their roles.

Kevin Pelkey designed a formidable set for this show. The action takes place over several different locations, but his clean structure functions well, especially with the crew who made the changes quickly and effectively. Donald Rowe’s lighting design highlighted the action well and Tom Rushen’s sound design was spot on and Seehee Lee as as sound operator was right on cue. This production plays through June 17. Box office: 203-878-6647.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]