The play opens with an English professor, Laurie (Marty Mukhalian), providing her students with a smart feminist critique of Shakespeare's King Lear. The gist of the professor's theory is this: The king initially rewards the daughters who flatter him and punishes the one who makes no effort at it. Clearly, her soul lacks that fire of ambition, that will to power possessed by her sisters. But at the end of the play, it is she (Cordelia), the one with no fire, no ambition, who proves to be the king's best daughter. What does this mean? According to the professor, being docile pays for a female and being ambitious does not. At the end of her lecture, Laurie tells her students to write a critical paper about the play. One of these students is Woodson Bull III (Mark Tyler Miller). Woodson is happy being called Third. He is just that kind of likable guy: handsome, athletic, and proud to be an American. He approaches the professor's desk with a few questions about the assignment. Laurie immediately hates him and does not hide her contempt. He represents all that is wrong with the USA: white male privilege.
The professor has good reason to have strong feelings about Woodson. For one, the year is 2003 and a bunch of neocon white males in the White House have decided to go to war simply because America has the right to go to war with whomever it feels like. Also, she fought hard and long to open the doors of her college to other voices and cultures. Her hatred for Woodson's kind even makes her hot. She has to take off her clothes just to cool down. The impudence of this young man! How dare he burst into her world with an attitude that in every way smacks of superiority? But the impudence does not end with attitude. Woodson's paper not only challenges the professor's feminist reading of King Lear, but it's written with the maturity of a deep reader of Shakespeare's works. The professor suspects plagiarism and does everything in her power to destroy his academic career. In one way, she succeeds—in another, she fails.
Third is excellent entertainment for a wet weekend night—the wine (you are allowed to drink in the theater), the performances (they all hit their marks), and Peggy Gannon's direction (she makes sure the plot maintains its good humor and light momentum). In the end, Third makes clear why the left will always be better than the right: The left can laugh at itself and its beliefs. You'll find none of that on the right. The right only laughs at the left.