Kiefer Sutherland in ‘That Championship Season’: What did the critics think?
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‘That Championship Season’ -- the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning ensemble drama by Jason Miller -- is receiving its first Broadway revival in a production that is being spearheaded by the playwright’s son, the actor Jason Patric. The production, which opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Sunday, is also notable for featuring the Broadway debut of ’24’ star Kiefer Sutherland.
The play tells the story of a reunion between members of a winning high school basketball team in Scranton, Penn. Their lives have not turned out as they expected and the play explores various shades of disappointment, resentment and betrayal.
‘Championship’ ran at the Public Theater in New York before transferring to Broadway in 1972, winning the Tony Award for best play. Directed by Greg Mosher, the ‘Championship’ revival features a starry cast that also includes Chris Noth, Brian Cox and Jim Gaffigan.
Patric, who was 6 when the play first opened, recently spoke to The Times about the drama and his father’s legacy. In the revival, Sutherland plays the role of a local school principal and Patric plays his frequently drunk brother. Noth takes the role of a businessman who has made a fortune in strip mining, while Cox plays their coach.
How did the critics respond to the revival and Sutherland’s Broadway debut? Keep reading to find out...
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that of the production’s ensemble cast, ‘Sutherland, in his Broadway debut, is the most credible of the lot, quietly conveying a shrunken man poisoned by passivity and resentment.’ He added that Miller’s play lacks subtlety and that it expresses ‘its intentions loudly, repeatedly and often embarrassingly.’ The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney wrote that the play ‘seems past its expiration date,’ and that this revival production falls flat. He added that the ‘actors do nail their characters. It’s just that their characters are not very interesting.’ Of Sutherland, he wrote that the actor ‘brings nervous, wiry intensity’ to his role.
Joe Dziemianowiczof the New York Daily News said that the production ‘amounts to two hours of bombast given the full-court press,’ adding that the play’s themes are presented too blatantly. ‘Broadway newcomer Kiefer Sutherland makes a credible debut in the unshowy role of a wimpy high school principal with pipe dreams about a political career,’ wrote the reviewer. ‘Nice to see the ’24’ star show a vulnerable side.’
Bloomberg’s Jeremy Gerard wasn’t impressed with the cast, writing that the director ‘hasn’t coaxed much more than whining and empty bluster’ from them.
Elysa Gardner of USA Today wrote that ‘the arguments and diatribes fueling the play seldom encourage reflection, and like real-life drunken banter, can grow tedious.’ But the ‘production is at least a showcase for the theatrical talents of several actors better known for their film and TV work.’
New York magazine’s Scott Brown found that the play ‘is hopelessly dog-eared’ and that it feels ‘a season or 40 out of date.’ Of Sutherland, the critic wrote that the actor ‘generates the most interesting frisson here, working against his typical screen persona: I want to see him play more angry little men.’
-- David Ng