The Play About the Coach tracks the three potentially most important minutes of a man’s life and career. It is also one of the tensest hours of theater I’ve experienced and one of the best one-man plays I’ve ever been to.
Paden Fallis as the coach is simply superb under the sure direction of Tamara Fisch. Fallis also wrote the excellent script. The coach is losing and the hour-long play tracks the final minutes it takes to do it. You find out how the game turns out one minute in, because this isn’t really a play about winning or losing a basketball game. The coach is a Shakespeare-quoting, movie buff with glaucoma and relationship problems who has not risen to the heights of his career that he wanted and all of it intrudes on his intent to win the game.
The players, who exist only as Fallis brings them to life, also play an important part, with quirks and shining moments and failures themselves. At one point, the coach cries out to Slobodovitch to get moving and then wonders why he hasn’t given the guy a nickname all season. Precious seconds tick by as he must find one. You’re immersed in the action as sounds from an actual basketball game play throughout. It’s fascinating to watch to a perfect exploration of the incredible tension he is under, wondering every second if he will crack. That’s true whether you’ve ever coached a game or just experienced a moment in your life that you could not fail.
I can’t say enough about Fallis. He manages to paint a picture, not only of every player, but also of every play, and he mines every moment for deep emotion. The audience actually groaned out loud when a non-existant player in a non-existant basketball game missed a non-existent shot and I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. He does talk a lot of shop, which was fun for me who grew up on basketball and whose brother is now a varsity coach. If you like to catch a game now and then, you will love this. If you’re totally unfamiliar with it, the actual coaching moments may pass you by, but it won’t matter because it isn’t really about the basketball.
True to its name, this is a play about the coach, and really, this is a play about being human trying to make something, anything, of a life.
Go just to see Fallis create an entire stadium out of thin air.
For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, go to our Fringe Preview.