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Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth Air Balls in ‘That Championship Season’

Actor Kiefer Sutherland opening night of That Championship Season.

That Championship Season has all the ingredients of a fantastic play. Unfortunately, the ingredients are far more interesting than the final product itself, and audiences will likely feel disappointed by the final curtain.

Among the high points are an exceptional group of talented actors, all of whom have long resumes and great reputations and the director of last year’s critically applauded A View From the Bridge.

Kiefer Sutherland makes his Broadway debut in the play, and it is clear that his skills don’t transfer from screen to stage.

Chris Noth is the handsome womanizer of the group as Phil Romano.
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But despite sharing good looks and a cocky attitude with his character, he fails to add anything to the piece.

There is touching back story; Jason Patric is one of the stars in the play, which was written by his late father, Jason Miller.

The story also has an intriguing hook, at first glance.

The play unfolds on the anniversary of a high school basketball team’s victory in a Pennsylvania state championship game. Four members of the starting lineup of the small-town team join their coach (Brian Cox) to reminisce.
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Throughout the evening, secrets and long-held grudges are revealed, changing the meaning of their big victory and the status of their current relationships.

That Championship Season, which takes place in 1972, raises questions about the definition of success, and the pursuance of the “American dream.”

Cox seems to have more energy than his younger co-stars, and he very much carries the show.

However, Gregory Mosher’s lazy direction causes many of his lines to come off as preachy and cliché.

He stands center stage throughout many of his speeches, yelling at whichever characters happen to be in the room with him.

Cox is joined by Jim Gaffigan, who shines in his Broadway debut as George Sikowski.

Most humorous moments belong to him, and his shlubby pretentiousness as the mayor up for re-election is fun to watch.

Sutherland, stiff and stoic, seems to be reading directly from a script and following stage directions mechanically.

It’s difficult to watch Jack Bauer stripped of his flair in a role unsuited for his portrayer.

Patric is really the stand-out among the players here, with a knack for timing and witticisms.

Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Noth in That Championship Season

As Tom Daley (brother to Sutherland’s James Daley) Patric plays a drunkard who ironically is the most intelligent person in a room full of chaotic and deceptive people.

Patric allows for his audiences to find redeeming qualities in his character, despite the bumbling way in which he carries himself, falling down stairs and spilling drinks on himself.

Mosher interjects an intermission too early in the production, breaking up the first moment of intrigue to grab the audience.

His characters are flaccid throughout the show; they leave the stage unutilized, and the last thirty minutes of the play become boring and wincingly clichéd.

Though the play reveals moments of symbolic interest and intensity, much of it falls flat.

The “team” clasping each other as they sing their old song of victory? Check.

Taking a picture with frozen smiles on their faces? Check.

Clutching of the team trophy as a center point? Also there and unmemorable in its execution.

That Championship Season studies the parallel between sports and politics, and the effect that politics can have on the deepest of relationships.

At one point, James tells his friends that he helped his son with the definition of the word “mediocrity.”

He describes it as meaning “low excellence,” in what turns out to be the most poignant moment of the play–a nod at the mediocrity that envelops the show from start to finish.

That Championship Season is now playing on Broadway at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Visit www.ThatChampionshipSeason.com or www.Telecharge.com for more information.

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