He’s the coach, call him Don.
He’s the assistant coach, call him Michael.
What’s in a name? Plenty.
Richard Dresser’s witty play “Rounding Third” — the final production in the 34th season at Stony Point’s Penguin Rep, through Nov. 6 — is a study in contrasts.
The clipboard-wielding Don is an old-timer.
“People who go out of their homes tend to know me,” he says.
Michael is new, urges the players to have fun.
Both have a mantra.
“It’s all about the kids.”
How they serve that mantra is where the comedy lies.
To Don, it’s about drafting well, having his son, Jimmy, size up the kids on the playground to see who’d make a good addition to the team.
To Mike, it’s about letting the boys be boys.
“You do whatever you want to do,” he says.
Watching the pitch-perfect P.J. Sosko, as Don, talk about the finer points of the game, one can’t help but think of George Carlin’s wonderful take on the difference between the girlish nature of baseball versus the rigid game of football.
(“Football is measured in downs,” Carlin intoned darkly, shifting to all innocence to say: “In baseball, players are up! Are you up? No, I think I’m up!”)
Sosko has Carlin’s sinewy, smoldering air, too, as if there’s a powderkeg just below the surface and the short fuse is already lit.
He had a similar albeit more menacing presence in Penguin’s memorable production of “Orphans” a few seasons back. Sosko is just as fine here, playing for laughs, which he earns.
(At one point at a preview performance, Don says “I feel like a jerk.” When a Penguin audience member blurted out, “You are a jerk,” Sosko glared at her without missing a beat. Classic, and in character.)
As the straitlaced Michael, Jon Krupp is the touch-feely dad.
He arrives at this municipal ballfield, in “a small town near a big city in the United States of America,” with three strikes against him as far as Don is concerned: He has never played baseball; he grew up playing curling in Canada; and his kid has little talent for the game.
Krupp’s commitment to his character is complete, giving Sosko plenty to slow-burn about. They make a fine pair.
Having clearly established the lines of demarcation between the coaches, Dresser — who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson — proceeds to blur them, with twists that deepen Don and Michael as characters.
Is Little League really all about winning? Where are their wives? Will their boys survive this?
Director Stephen Nachamie, making his Penguin debut, has a firm grasp of the material and knows when to put his foot on the gas and when to let the story coast a bit. One hopes he’ll join the growing stable of directors to bring stories to life on the cozy stage on Crickettown Road.
Ken Larson’s set is a delightful mix of chain-link and a backdrop that evokes a speeding, stitched fastball.
Charlotte Palmer-Lane, whose costumes made gave Hudson Valley Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” a cool feel this summer, keeps the wardrobe appropriately suburban, adding to the line dividing Don and Michael.
Todd O. Wren’s lights, Nicole Greenberg’s props and Colin Whitely’s sound — complete with called balls and strikes — help to give the proceedings an authentic air.
It has been a fine season at Penguin, from Tom Dudzick’s charmer “Greetings!” to the time-bending “Sirens” to the delightful tallish tale “Shipwrecked” and now to “Rounding Third.”
Looking forward to season 35, but for now, check out “Rounding Third” for a few more laughs to last the winter till the barn reopens next spring. It’s worth the trip.
“Rounding Third” Weekends through Nov. 6. 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m., Saturdays; 2 p.m., Sundays. Penguin Rep, 7 Crickettown Road, Stony Point. $34; $20 for students. Discounts for groups of 10 or more. 845-786-2873. www.penguinrep.org.
Photo by Aaron Pepis: Richard Dresser’s “Rounding Third” at Penguin Rep stars, from left, John Krupp as Michael and P.J. Sosko as Don.