"THIRD" COMES IN FIRST AT THEATERWORKS

By Bonnie Goldberg

Plagiarism is an ugly word and being accused of it is a terrifying prospect. Just ask Woodson Bull III who finds himself in the cross hairs of his professor of Elizabethan drama, Dr. Laurie Jamison. For years, Jamison has created a niche for herself at this elite New England college, holding court on feminist issues she feels are relevant. Despite dealing with a father who has Alzheimer's, a daughter who has declared her sexual preference for women, a husband who is obsessed with physical fitness, a best friend battling breast cancer, the Bush administration's unrealistic treatment of Iraq and a daily multitude of hot flashes, the good professor has a certainty about Woodson.

To discover her preconceived notions and the lengths she will go to prove them, head over to Hartford TheaterWorks for an introductory course in Wendy Wasserstein's involving drama "Third" holding classes until Sunday, November 8.

In Jamison's eyes, Woodson, who is known as Third, after his father and grandfather, is preppy and privileged. The fact that he is a scholarship student and a wrestler doesn't shake her convictions. When he submits a paper on the psychological aspects of King Lear's character, she is so sure that he couldn't possibly have written such a fine piece of scholarship that she formally accuses him of plagiarism and forces him to defend himself in front of the college's Committee for Advanced Academic Standards.

Accusing Third of being white, straight and a Republican, she refuses to back down, even when the committee, including her good friend and fellow professor Nancy, absolve him of any wrongdoing. She is positive any one who wants to be a sports agent could not possibly have penned a paper of that intellect.

Kate Levy is the opinionated and conflicted Professor Jamison, with a hardened heart like Pharoah of Egypt, dealing with her dad's (Edmond Genest) mental problems, her daughter Emily's (Olivia Hoffman) maturity issues, her friend Nancy's (Andrea Gallo) health problems she wants to keep private and her unusual student Woodson Bull III, an eager to learn and inquisitive Conor M. Hamill.

Rob Ruggiero directs this fine cast in this tightly wound drama, with moments of sparkling wit, with a firm and entertaining hand. Michael Schweikhardt's clever revolving set smoothly changes scenes seemingly without effort.

For tickets ($50-65, senior matinees $35), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Come early to travel through past productions courtesy of Lanny Nagler, the resident photographer for the past two decades.

Let Wendy Wasserstein, in her last play before her untimely early death, issue commentary about the feminine movement, mental and physical illness, academia, aging and relationships with family and friends. You'll be all the better for listening.

 

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