Will ‘The Championship Season’ live up to title at Tonys?

In 1972, “That Championship Season” wowed Broadway winning both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for neophyte playwright Jason Miller. Nearly four decades on, his son Jason Patric headlines the first Broadway revival of this ensemble drama. Joining him in this memory play about the ill-fated reunion of a high school basketball team with their coach are Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Brian Cox and Jim Caffigan

Reviews for this production which opened Sunday were decidedly mixed. Ben Brantley of the New York Times was disappointed to discover that the play is less than the sum of its parts “expressing its intentions loudly, repeatedly and often embarrassingly.” Among the actors, he singled out the Emmy-winning “24” star for praise, noting “Sutherland, in his Broadway debut, is the most credible of the lot, quietly conveying a shrunken man poisoned by passivity and resentment.”

Scott Brown of New York concurred, dismissing the play as “hopelessly dog-eared” and is “a season or 40 out of date.” And he too reserved his praise for Sutherland “who generates the most interesting frisson here, working against his typical screen persona: I want to see him play more angry little men.”

New York Daily News scribe Joe Dziemianowicz thought the evening “amounts to two hours of bombast given the full-court press.” He thought, “Sutherland makes a credible debut in the unshowy role of a wimpy high school principal with pipe dreams about a political career. Nice to see the ’24’ star show a vulnerable side.”

And for Elysa Gardner of USA Today, “the arguments and diatribes fueling the play seldom encourage reflection, and like real-life drunken banter, can grow tedious.” She conceded that “the production is at least a showcase for the theatrical talents of several actors better known for their film and TV work.”

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