Full court press
The Play About The Coach
Written and Performed by Paden Fallis
Directed by Tom Ridgley
Rocketship Productions (http://myspace.com/theplayaboutthecoach)
Peoples’ Improv Theatre,
Non-union production (Thursdays @ ,
Reviewed by Judd Hollander
It's no secret that the final minutes of a close sporting event can seem like an eternity when you're hoping your team will hang on to win. Paden Fallis puts the audience right in the middle of such a situation in his one-person show The Play About The Coach. Set on the sidelights of an important basketball game, the Coach watches in horror as his team's 14-point lead begins to evaporate due to several consecutive turnovers, supposed bad calls by the referee (as seen from the Coach's point of view) and errors among his players. Raging, cajoling, threatening and intimating them, he desperately tries to keep his team from a complete collapse. In between huddles with his team, he vents his rage at the referee (who the Coach thinks has it in for him) and mutters under his breath at the opposing coach, who seems to be a former mentor of his and who is a lot better off financially. The Coach also has to deal with calls from someone important in his life (perhaps a wife, partner or lover) with whom he is at a crossroads.
We learn a lot about the Coach during this approximately 50-minute piece. He is an educated man, quoting the classics and the Bible during his talks with his players (and himself); he likes using nicknames to define members of the team; he uses language that might be considered rather politically incorrect; he is driven by a desire to succeed; and is able to walk away from the game when it's over and accept his part of the blame when necessary. However, this information only goes skin deep and never really allows the audience to get really inside his head to see the man inside the Coach.
Fallis give a powerhouse performance, bringing the audience right into the huddle and down on courtside as the action unspools. Tom Ridgely's direction is also very strong. Fallis' slightly unkempt suit works well (his costume is uncredited in the press materials), as do the excellent sound effects by Bart Lucas.
However the play does falter at times, especially when the action stops. The beginning of the play takes place at a press conference where the audience learns the outcome of the game before they have a chance to experience it, taking away some of the immediacy of the story. Also at one point, the coach realizes one of his players is blind (to what extent is never fully explained). While this may have been done to draw a parallel between the player and the Coach's own situation (he has glaucoma), realistically it make no sense. It may be possible for a blind kid can be on a basketball team, but it's too much of a stretch to believe he's been on the team all season and the Coach never knew about his condition.
The other real problem is that by the end of the play, there's little evidence that the events onstage have changed the Coach in any major (or minor) way, so one wonders what Fallis had in mind when he conceived the show. Still, Fallis attacks the part with enthusiasm and, with some revisions and expansions, the work could prove to be quite interesting indeed.
Copyright 2007 by Judd Hollander
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