TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through November 8, 2015
by Jarice Hanson
TheaterWorks is celebrating their thirtieth anniversary season and the tenth anniversary of Wendy Wasserstein’s final play, “Third.” Director Rob Ruggiero impeccably blends the talents of his lighting, set design, sound design, and costuming team in this thoughtful, evenly paced production. He honors the timelessness of Wasserstein’s play by focusing on the personal story she wanted to tell shortly before she died of cancer in 2006.
Actress Kate Levy keenly projects the multiple dimensions of Laurie Jameson, a professor who questions hegemonic masculinity and political power while struggling with her father’s dementia, her two daughters’ life choices, a friend with cancer, and her own entry into the third stage of life opens the show with a monolog in which she lectures her students to “challenge the norms.” While the character hopes to open the others’ eyes to what she sees as “truth” in literature, she is really speaking about Wasserstein’s own challenge to the norms of theatre, patriarchy, and politics. Levy, who portrays enigmatic characters beautifully, is flawless.
Laurie accuses a student of plagiarizing his paper on “King Lear” at an elite New England school (a thinly disguised Amherst College), reasoning that young Woodson Bull III is a white male who is used to a life of privilege. Preferring to be called “Third,” the young man challenges his accuser in an academic honest hearing, and Laurie is forced to reevaluate her search for what might be her ultimate truth. In a debut performance, Conor M. Hamill is believable as Third. Olivia Hoffman as Laurie’s daughter and Andrea Gallo as a professor friend with cancer who embraces life are original characters who defy convention. Laurie’s father, heartbreakingly played by Edmond Genest, reminds the audience of the tenuousness of the mind and the many roles we play in our worldly lives.
“Third” is the type of play that gives the audience member much to ponder and much to appreciate. The play requires some serious thinking, reminding its patrons that theatre often tells the universal story of life, the quest for meaning, and coming to terms with what is learned along the way.