Under the direction of Alan Knoll, Dramatic License Productions has staged That Championship Season with an impressive group of actors. As Coach, Kevin Beyer takes command of the stage like no other, portraying a man whose world has revolved around the successes and challenges of his former players. At times, Coach comes across more like an erratic preacher, proselytizing his agenda and manipulating his former players as though they were boys and not men. While Beyer's performance was strong, the lack of vulnerability in his character left room for depth and dimension during some of the play's quieter, more dramatic moments. Perhaps this has more to do with the writing of the character rather than Beyer's fully-charged delivery.
Adding to the play's talented roster is actor Travis Estes, playing George, the town mayor. Estes successfully taps into the humor, sadness, and irony of his character, giving a performance that is authentic and engaging. As James, actor B. Weller does a remarkable job of portraying a man whose subservient disposition serves as a catalyst to some of the more tense moments of the play. Providing comic relief to such moments is James' younger alcoholic brother, Tom, played by actor Charlie Barron. Although Tom lives in a constant state of inebriation, his ability to remain in touch with reality more so than his sober team mates leads to the play's crescendo. Barron's ability to carry the hefty plot reveal while remaining committed to the humor and sloppiness of his character served as a testament to his craft as an actor.
The fourth member of the winning line-up is Phil, a corrupt strip-mining millionaire whose success is largely due to his relationship with the mayor George. As George faces reelection, Phil must decide which candidate to financially support so he may continue to line his slimy pockets. Playing Phil, actor Cameron Ulrich owns his character, delivering a performance that is both consistent and believable.
Although the acting in this production of That Championship Season was strong, the play itself was difficult to relate and plug in to. While playwright Miller builds a foundation on which these characters can seek and find the deeper meaning in their lives, little in the way of discovery or salvation is achieved; ultimately leaving a sense of emptiness and a longing for something more resolute and meaningful. At the crossroad of their lives, Miller chooses to lead his characters down what seems to be a dead end.
You can catch remaining performances of Dramatic License Productions' That Championship Season at the ARTropolis arts district in Chesterfield Mall through August 22nd. For tickets and more information you may call 636.220.7012.