10 February 1999 | McGee-4
Breaking From the Past - Or Reflecting On It
Based on Jason Miller's Pulitzer Prize winning play, "Championship Season" succeeds in a department many stage adaptations often find insurmountable: the transition from boards to big screen. "Season's" die-hard critics cried foul when Miller presented his work with changes in original flow and format, forgetting how such blind loyalty to purity often trapped many good works into the category of 'too boring to watch.' Some of "Championship Season's" best moments, ironically, arrive in the first half hour when Miller went out and captured his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania at one of its most desperate times; the blue collar fabric of the community had eroded so dramatically during the 'oil glut' recession that the very face of the city was changing. As Miller's characters seem desperate to cling to their old ways, the deteriorating streets of Scranton reflect their struggle. Further criticism was levelled at the play's strong language; there's something to offend just about every race, sex and religion. Miller toned it down, slightly, again - an accurate depiction of the city's character. One need only to recite their address in Scranton for any resident to know their life's story. Italians live over there, Jews there, blacks there, the Irish over there, on and on. Scranton is an old city with an old fashioned, quiet system of segregation that may not be as unusual as we'd like to think. When the Coach talks about "as a race, can't trust 'em," remember - it isn't the playwright speaking, but rather an entire city being indicted. That said, "That Championship Season" can be an enjoyable and moving film experience - that is, for those who don't carry the baggage and prejudices of the past.