That Championship Season

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That Championship Season
Written by Jason Miller
Characters The Coach
George Sitkowski
Phil Romano
James Daley
Tom Daley
Date premiered 14 September 1972
Place premiered Booth Theatre
Original language English
Setting The Coach's home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1972.

That Championship Season is a 1972 play by Jason Miller. It was the recipient of the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Characters
  • The Coach
  • George Sitkowski
  • Phil Romano
  • James Daley
  • Tom Daley

The setting is 1972 at the Coach's home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. On the twentieth anniversary of their victory in the Pennsylvania state championship game, four members of the starting lineup of a Catholic high school basketball team have gathered to celebrate. The coach is terminally ill, and this reunion may be their last chance to reminisce with him.

George Sitkowski, the town's mayor, has proven inept and unpopular, and he is likely to lose his bid for re-election. The fact that his challenger is Jewish is particularly galling to him.

Phil Romano has become a millionaire in the strip-mining business, using his close ties to Mayor George Sitkowski to obtain mining permits. He helps George financially, but is carrying on an affair with George's wife.

James Daley is a local junior high school principal, and his brother Tom is an unsuccessful, embittered, cynical alcoholic and ne'er-do-well writer.

The fifth member of the starting lineup, Martin, has refused to attend the reunion. He bears a grudge against the coach, for reasons that do not become clear until late in the play.

None of the men's lives have turned out as any of them had hoped, and, on some level, all still look to their coach for guidance. The Coach has always been the embodiment of old-school Catholicism (Senator Joseph McCarthy and Father Charles Coughlin are heroes of his), the one person in their lives who was sure of everything, and his absolute certainty and confidence gave them a sense of security. While the Coach thought he was teaching his players how to be men, it appears that these middle-aged men are still emotional adolescents who need the Coach to tell them how to live their lives. But the Coach's pep talks, which had always inspired them, are beginning to sound hollow. Only now, these many years later, do the men begin to suspect that their coach was a bigot, a bully, and a bit of a fraud.

Productions[edit]

Off-Broadway (1972)[edit]

The play made its off-Broadway debut at the Estelle Newman Theatre on May 2, 1972, where it ran for 144 performances, closing on September 3, 1972.[1] Directed by A.J. Antoon, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Broadway (1972-1974)[edit]

A transfer of the off-Broadway production opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre, running for 700 performances, opening on September 14, 1972, and closing on April 21, 1974. This production won the 1973 New York Drama Critics' Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Award for Best Play.The production starred Richard Dysart, Charles Durning, Paul Sorvino and Michael McGuire .

Off-Broadway revival (1999)[edit]

A short-lived off-Broadway revival played from April 21 to May 2, 1999, at the Second Stage Theatre. Directed by Scott Ellis with lighting by Kenneth Posner, it lasted for 14 performances.[2]

Broadway revival (2011)[edit]

Gregory Mosher directed a revival of the play on Broadway at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Previews began on February 9, 2011, with limited engagement from March 6 to May 29, 2011.[3][4] It starred Brian Cox as Coach, Jim Gaffigan as George Sikowski, Chris Noth as Phil Romano, Jason Patric (Miller's son) as Tom Daley and Kiefer Sutherland as James Daley.[5] Highlights of the production were released on February 25, 2011.[6] The revival met with a lukewarm reception from the critics.[7]

Reception[edit]

At the time of its premiere, That Championship Season was a critical success, though a few dissenters had problems with certain aspects of the play. Those who liked the play compliment its humor, dialogue, and characters. Reviewing the Broadway production, Clive Barnes of the New York Times wrote, "Mr. Miller has a perfect ear and instinct for the rough and tumble profanity of locker-room humor. The coarsely elegant gibes go along with Mr. Miller’s indictment of a society, which opens with an ironic playing of the National Anthem and then lacerates the sickness of small-town America full of bigotry, double-dealing, racism and hate."[8]

Film adaptations[edit]

Miller wrote and directed the film adaptation of the play that was released in 1982. Robert Mitchum starred as the Coach, replacing William Holden, who had died before filming began. Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach, Martin Sheen, and Paul Sorvino rounded out the cast. In 1999, Miller wrote another screenplay for television that was directed by Paul Sorvino, who also played the Coach. This version also starred Vincent D'Onofrio, Terry Kinney, Tony Shaloub, and Gary Sinise, the last of whom was a co-producer.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Lucille Lortel Foundation. "That Championship Season", Lortel Archives, Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival.
  2. ^ The Lucille Lortel Foundation. "That Championship Season", Lortel Archives, Second Stage Theatre.
  3. ^ Blank, Matthew. "Schedule of Upcoming Broadway Shows".playbill.com, December 29, 2010.
  4. ^ "That Championship Season", 2011 Broadway production listing, BroadwayWorld.com
  5. ^ "Cox, Gaffigan, Noth, Patric & Sutherland to Star in THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON 2010/11/02". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  6. ^ First Look at THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON on Broadway!
  7. ^ "Kiefer Sutherland in 'That Championship Season': What did the critics think?". Los Angeles Times. March 7, 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  8. ^ Barnes, Clive (September 15, 1972). "That Championship Season". The New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 

External links[edit]