|Jason Patric signing autographs after the show
|Kiefer Sutherland greeting fans after the show
I'm surrounded by men in my life- my husband, two sons, even our late, great basset hound Malcolm was male- so stories about men and what they think have great appeal to me.
The Broadway revival of Jason Miller's 1972 Pulitzer- Prize winning play, That Championship Season, has five weeks left in its run, and it is a show that really gives insight into the male mind.
Kiefer Sutherland (terrific in his Broadway debut), Chris Noth, Jason Patric, and Jim Gaffigan all play men who twenty years ago won a high school basketball state championship under their gruff coach, brillantly played by Brian Cox.
The play takes place in 1972 in a small town in Pennsylvania. Gaffigan is the affable mayor readying himself for a re-election campaign. Sutherland is his campaign manager, a man who would like it to be his turn to be in the political spotlight. Patric is Sutherland's drunken brother, returning home after wandering the country. Noth plays a variation on his Mr. Big (Sex and the City) and Peter Florrick (The Good Wife) characters as the successful car dealership owner who may not support his teammate in his re-election bid.
At first, the men share good memories and alcohol, but things take a turn, and some ugly truths come out. Patric's drunken brother stumbles around, but he generally is the truth-telling instigator. Patric (son of playright Miller) does a good job with this role. Noth's character is a bit slimy, and Gaffigan shows off a serious side in his role. He shows good range as the fun-loving glad-hander who turns angry at a betrayal by a friend.
Cox has the showy role of the Coach, a man anyone who has participated in organized sports will recognize. He loves to recall the winning of the big game, even if it may not have happened exactly as he and the others will admit.
It is Sutherland who is a revelation in the show. He is a man who takes care of everyone- his drunken brother, his mean father, his wife and kids- and now it is his time to shine. The anger and resentment builds in him and he explodes in a powerful scene. His performance is the best in a strong cast.
The time is 1972, and there is some language that some will find racist and misogynistic, (the audience groaned at some language) but that was the accepted language at the time as anyone who remembers Archie Bunker can attest. The cast really works well together, and they are believable as men who are approaching middle-age and the reality that their dreams may not come true, while confronting a past that is based on a lie.
The show made me think, and at times brought me to tears. Go see it if just for the strong performances, especially Sutherland's. Following the show, the cast signed autographs, with Sutherland staying the longest and posing for photos; he's a nice guy who's good to his fans.