That Championship Season
(That Championship Season Website)
By Jason Miller
Bernard R. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth
Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland
Directed by Gregory Mosher
Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Production Stage Manager: Jane Grey
Casting: Cindy Tolan
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
General Management: Lisa M. Poyer
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 10, 2011
This dark reunion of Pennsylvania, high school basketball team-mates, at the home of the Coach, circa 1972, brings out five seasoned actors, who alternately drink, drink, drink, curse, cry, kiss, sing, laugh, clap, dance, toss (a basketball), and throw up. At times they reveal long buried secrets, of personal shame, jealousy, greed, exploitation, neediness, and their deviant, collective rape. All five characters still seem to live nearby, but their reunions are far between. They greet one another like they’ve traveled cross country. But, soon, old rivalries, resentments, rage, and rough-housing simmer and explode.
In Jason Miller’s That Championship Season, Brian Cox is Coach, who still demands loyalty and honesty within the group, an enforced effort to re-glue emotional bonds. Jim Gaffigan is George Sikowski, the local mayor, who needs fast cash for his coffers. Kiefer Sutherland is James Daley, a local school principal, who craves a promotion. Chris Noth is Phil Romano, who made Faustian bargains for wealth and power, and he uses the phone to flaunt his finesse. Jason Patric is Tom Daley, James’ younger brother, an exhibitionist, who’s glued to the bottle. Let the games begin.
The liquor works its way fast and furiously, and Coach’s impressive home, paneled in wood, with shiny trophies and school mementos, becomes the playing field for grabbing a rifle, slamming a basketball, fist-fighting, and unleashing insults that sting worse than wounds. But, this was a team with a gloried past, and, in the end, the Coach grabs control. Also, by the end, each character has had the spotlight to bare his gut, to seek sympathy or find revenge, whether it be the older Daley, whose caretaking for a sick father consumed his greenest years, or whether it be the well-heeled Romano, who bedded one of the wives. One of the more poignant scenes related to the actual championship, and how the players ultimately seized the ball.
Gregory Mosher directed for dynamic dialogue, with physicality ever expanding. Rick Sordelet’s fight direction kept the actors miraculously safe. Michael Yeargan’s busy set looked naturally lived in, overly stuffed, and quite fertile for the action that ensues. Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting shifted as truths were illuminated. Jason Miller’s play is timelessly engrossing, and I’d love to see it again on a small stage, with intimate proximity to Miller’s drama. Kudos to Jason Miller, whose son, Jason Patric, so finely interpreted the agony of Tom Daley. In fact, kudos to this cast of five.
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