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‘Third’ hits home

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

“Third,” Lake Dillon Theatre’s latest production, strikes a deep chord with director Wendy Moore and lead actress Jennifer Condreay, because both have been educators for at least 30 years.

But they’re not the only ones “Third” will leave an imprint upon. The play takes a personal look at how political leanings can color personal relationships.

“(Playwright Wendy Wasserstein) knew what she was talking about,” Moore said. “She picked out every scab she could possible pick. I think it’s an accurate portrayal of the world of education.”

Condreay plays Laurie Jameson, a brilliant English professor at a Northeastern liberal arts college. It’s 2002, and she’s obsessed with President Bush’s attack on Iraq. Fueled by her anger against Republican tactics, she views one of her new students as “a walking red state.”

This particular student, nicknamed Third because his full name is Woodson Bull III (played by Brian Loveland), earned his place at the elitist school with a wrestling scholarship. Jameson takes an immediate dislike to his jockish attitude, and when he turns in a well-versed essay on “King Lear,” she blames him of plagiarism.

The story revolves around questions of whether or not her accusation is justified, or if she is simply projecting her struggles with not only the national politics, but also her age and difficulty with her father’s (Bob Moore) Alzheimer’s and her friend’s (Kelly Ketzenbarger) cancer onto the boy.

In the end, “Third” doesn’t give any easy answers.

“Those situations are never black and white,” Moore said. “They’re every shade of every color.”

Because Moore keeps the characters honest and real through her directing, Condreay believes people will react to the professor in all kinds of ways – from loathing her to chuckling, or feeling very empathetic of her situation.

“(Audience reaction) is going to be interesting as far as we’re so polarized in this country politically, and this character is so liberal – everything is funneled through that,” Condreay said. “It’s probably a reminder of this polarization that’s happening, not only in politics but also on college campuses. It’ll feed those people who think colleges are too liberal. There’s a lot to think about when you see this show.”

As one of Wasserstein’s last plays before she died of cancer in 2006, many experts believe it’s a semi-autobiographical story, depicting Wasserstein’s personality (through the professor) before she got cancer, then portraying her after she takes a hard look at herself and mellows (through the professor’s friend who has cancer and decides intellectualism just isn’t that important).

“‘Third’ is close to being one of the best political plays in the past decade,” said performing arts director Chris Alleman. “What is wonderful about Wasserstein’s work is that it doesn’t skew or lean towards one political thinking. As a matter of fact, it’s not really a true political play; it’s about the family, self-doubt and relationships of a woman too far in her own thoughts and world.”


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