Sunday, October 31, 2010

That Championship Season by Jason Miller (1973)

Summary:  The 1952 Pennsylvania State Championship basketball team has gathered for a reunion-of-sorts at Coach's house.   They reminisce about the good times, share memories about an absent teammate and discuss their fairly boring adult lives.  The major conflict of the play comes when it is revealed that Phil is having an affair with George's wife.  George is the mayor and wants to run for reelection, but the boys aren't sure he is still the right man for the job--perhaps because he is the most outwardly emotional of the bunch and awkwardly mourns for an institutionalized son.  Though "the team" fights throughout the play and struggles with the reality that Coach is aging, the conclusion of the play depicts the cast listening to a recording of the last few moments of their championship game.

Thoughts:  In the Introduction, director Joseph Papp repeatedly states that he has always thought of this as "an actor's play."  He also mentions that when it was originally pitched to him, he hesitated to give it a full production.  I know what Papp meant by "actor's play"; but when I finished reading it, I also felt that it is a play that does not hold up well on paper.  In other words, this is a play that must be seen to be fully appreciated.  Much of the work I have encountered in this project also stands as literature for critical analysis and appreciation, but this is not one of those plays.

This is the first play about sports that I have encountered in the project, and I'm fairly certain that the audience demographic for this show was unusual.  With the recent debut of Lombardi on Broadway (and stories about professional athlete sightings at the theatre), this play makes me think about the importance of plays that appeal strongly to a specific audience who ordinarily wouldn't be seen in the theatre.

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