Oscar E Moore

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That Championship Season – A dreary, uninspired, star-studded revival

March 13th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

Musty set.  Musty play.  That about sums up this relic of a revival of That Championship Season which back in 1972-3 won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award.  Hard to believe that this time capsule of a group of “lost boys” deserved such praise.

The action, of which there is very little, takes place in the living room of Coach (Brian Cox).  No name.  Just Coach.   It’s reunion time, once again, for the four members of a basketball team that Coach, coached to victory twenty years ago in the Pennsylvania State Championship game. 

The fifth member, Milton, has always been a no show for reasons that are revealed and are supposed to shock.  What does shock is the hypocrisy, shallowness and rampant racism that permeates the play written by Jason Miller.

Last season Gregory Mosher directed another play written by a Miller.  Arthur Miller.  It was an astounding A View From the Bridge.  I guess it’s a question of what the director has to work with.  It’s slim pickings this time around and it moves at a snail’s pace.

Coach has a recording of the final moments of their victory on a LP record.  Long Playing.  And that’s just what this production is.  Tiresome, dull and long playing. 

The first extremely short act ends abruptly.  Act II continues exactly where Act I left off.  Why an intermission?  Probably to refill the bottles of scotch and replace the bottles of beer that they all swill during the performance so that they can loosen up, vent their pent up anger, reveal some secrets and play their version of “the truth game” – somewhat like a straight version of The Boys in the Band (1970) – where there was at least plenty of humor.

We meet the team much older now but still acting like the locker room fools they were and continue to be.  One is the town’s Mayor – George Sikowski (Jim Gaffigan) looking to get reelected.  His opponent is described as a Jew with charisma.  Phil Romano (Chris Noth) who has plenty of bucks is thinking of switching his allegiance and support to the Jew.  He is also having an affair with George’s wife (who did it to get financing for her husband’s campaign). 

Aide to George is James Daley (Kiefer Sutherland) a meek high school principal who fears that they will replace him.  His drunken and really lost brother Tom Daley (Jason Patric) as portrayed seems to be hiding his own secrets with his feminine like gestures and bitchy, funny and truthful observations.

While all these bankable stars do an adequate job sparks rarely ignite and the show doesn’t ever soar.  They might as well be reading the Pennsylvania telephone directory.

Coach’s mantra has always been to play by the rules (his rules) and to win at any cost.  But that hasn’t worked for this group of lost boys that seem to have never matured – at least this time around.

Photo:  Joan Marcus

Through May 29th.    www.thatchampionshipseason.com  Bernard Jacobs Theatre

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