|THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON|
Every year certain sports teams are heralded as favorites to win whatever championship is up for grabs simply because they look good on paper. And every year lots of them walk away with nothing because they didn't gel on the playing field. It's hard to explain exactly why such things do or don't happen, even when distinguished players and personnel are involved, and it's just as painful to watch when the people involved aren't star athletes but the five star actors onstage in the Broadway revival of That Championship Season.
Jason Miller's 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the 20-year reunion of a high school basketball team that won the Pennsylvania state title stars a quintet of faces familiar from TV and film: Kiefer Sutherland (24), Chris Noth (Sex and the City), comedian Jim Gaffigan, film actor Jason Patric (the son of the late playwright) and British actor Brian Cox as the teamís coach. But an emotional flatness pervades Gregory Mosher's production, despite some fine performances, especially Cox as the volatile, win-at-all-costs Coach, from whom a waterfall of racial and anti-Semitic epithets spill forth.
Coach, like his players (and like our country during that era), is clinging to a glorious past that's long since past. George (Gaffigan), the town's mayor, is girding himself for a difficult reelection campaign. Phil (Noth), caught in an unhappy marriage, has had an affair with George's wife. School principal James (Sutherland) feels trapped in his job and his brother Tom (Patric) has ruined his life with alcohol. A fifth player, Martin, never attends their annual reunions.
The play's content may no longer have shock value, but a sturdier production (like the 1999 Second Stage revival) could still be rewarding. Noth, Sutherland and especially Cox play their parts like top pros, but the cast doesn't come together as a team. "Can't get the rhythm going," Patric says at one point as they pass a ball around. The same is true about this production.
By Diane Snyder
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Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036