Will Julia Roberts show up tonight to see two of her ex lovers–Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric — debut all star revival of Jason Miller‘s “That Championship Season.” Roberts, who left Sutherland at the altar in 1991 to run off to Ireland with Patric, would really make for drama at the Bernard Jacobs Theater.
This production has maybe more drama backstage than onstage. Miller is dead, but his son, Jason Patric, is one of the stars. According to a Page Six item, he’s toting Miller’s ashes around with him in an urn on stage. (At least he’s not snorting them.) PS Patric’s maternal grandfather was Jackie Gleason, FYI. Any time I’ve ever asked Patric about Jackie, he’s brushed it off. So you see why there’s no press. (That, and what if Julia shows up? Wow.)
Patric, who’s not totally convincing as an alcoholic former basketball player, also has an interesting backstage story with this production. Sutherland was once set to marry Julia Roberts. A stage set at 20th Century Fox has been readied, invitations went out, it was all on. The date was June 14, 1991. Then, with three days to go, Julia canceled the wedding and ran off to Ireland with…Jason Patric. Really, who needs a play?
At Saturday afternoon’s matinee, the cast–Patric, Sutherland, Chris Noth, Jim Gaffigan, and Brian Cox were fine, although Cox is way beyond that. He is worth the whole ticket. Gaffigan, a TV actor and comedian in his Broadway debut, was very good. Chris Noth, playing Paul Sorvino’s old part (and that’s a “Law & Order” trivia question right there) is underused but makes a strong impact. Julia’s two exes are not so certain. A lot of the audience may be disappointed that Sutherland’s part is small. He doesn’t have much to do and he doesn’t do much with it. Patric’s alcoholic didn’t land a punch on Saturday, but he could grow into it.
The biggest problem is the play itself. Written in 1972, “TCS” is extremely anti-Semitic and racist. Back then, in the flush of “All in the Family” on TV, this seemed daring. Now frankly it’s obnoxious. We’ve grown, but the play hasn’t. I felt this way when I saw it in a different production a couple of summers ago at the Westport Country Playhouse. Cox’s character, the coach, is all Archie Bunker. Gaffigan is his disciple. Once you’ve warmed up to their bigotry and small mindedness, the actors are strong enough to pull you along. But the secondary characters–the former basketball players who may have cheated to get their famous high school win–pale by comparison.
UPDATE: In the end, Julia was a no-show. Sarah Jessica Parker,Robin Williams, Julianna Margulies, and Marg Helgenberger were the stars in the audience.