Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is it all about winning?

‘That Championship Season’ reveals a different game

Express Staff Writer

From left, Rick Hoffman, Cam Cooper, Larry Kelley, Adam King and John Grabow will perform in The Royal Larkspur Players production of “That Championship Season” at the nexStage Theatre. Photo by

The Royal Larkspur Players will kick off 2011 with a production of Jason Miller's 1972 hit play, "That Championship Season." The play is set in Scranton, Pa., where a reunion takes place for the 20th anniversary of the Pennsylvania state championship basketball game. Four members of the starting lineup of a Catholic high school team have gathered to celebrate at their winning coach's home. The coach is terminally ill. This reunion may be their last chance to reminisce with him.

"I've always wanted to do this play," said the play's director, Gary Hoffman. "It has a great moral message. The plays shows a lot more than winning and sports."

The staged reading of "That Championship Season" will take place on Sunday, Jan. 2, and Monday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. The production is co-sponsored by Sun Valley Adaptive Sports.

In addition, each evening at 6:30 p.m. there will be a "Name the College Fight Song Competition," which will precede the play. Audience members can make an attempt to name a series of 12 college songs to win a $100 gift certificate from Formula Sports.

"It's interesting how a play that is 40 years old can still hit the mark and point out areas of prejudice," Hoffman said. "I like to think we are getting over these issues but it's a slow process."

In "That Championship Season," the coach is played by Larry Kelley. Cam Cooper, John Grabow, Adam King and Rick Hoffman play the roles of the team members.

None of the characters' lives has turned out as they'd hoped. The coach has always been the embodiment of old-school Catholicism—Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Father Charles Coughlin are his heroes. He's the one person in these men's lives who was sure of everything. His absolute certainty and confidence gave the men a sense of security.

"I think the play does not draw any conclusions," Hoffman said. "It's a small Pennsylvania town and there are bigotry and prejudices."

In these many years later for the members of this basketball team, the men suspect that their coach was a bigot, a bully and a bit of a fraud.

From its earliest productions, "That Championship Season" was widely praised by critics for 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."

A Q&A will follow the production each night for those audience members who wish to stay.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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