‘Coach’ who can’t handle the truth
By Jane Horwitz
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
With a little more than two minutes left on the clock, a college basketball coach self-destructs in “The Play About the Coach.” Watching actor/playwright Paden Fallis perform this mini theatrical tornado is akin to watching a train wreck, but in a good way -- a desperate, funny, sweaty, can’t-look-away train wreck.
The hour-long piece, at the Goethe-Institut, has two more shows, on Thursday and Saturday.
You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of college basketball to enjoy the show. Even blissful ignorance of sports in general -- and I know whatof I speak -- is not a problem. The drama lies in the man’s predicament; in his realization that, as his players fritter away a decent lead in a March Madness quarterfinal, he’s headed on an inexorable downward career spiral. He intuits this just as he senses that the opposing coach has embarked on a brilliant career path. It’s such a tough truth that our coach experiences temporary blindness at one point during the game.
Fallis is alone but well served by a soundtrack that makes vivid the noises in the crowd and on the court. Yet you’re watching a lone, slender man in a dapper suit and blue tie, pacing like a tiger and addressing his players, his assistant coach and the referee as things fall apart. His players cannot or will not follow his directions. The ref is hostile, and terrible career stats keep appearing on the coach’s clipboard, scrawled by some phantom. Then there are the intrusive phone calls from a wife, a mistress, perhaps a child -- someone threatening to do something drastic. As he slips in and out of reality, the coach’s love of Shakespeare and Beethoven bubbles up, with the nagging thought that he should have devoted his life to something else -- that he “made the wrong call.”
The New York-based Fallis is an actor of impressive intensity and focus. He makes you see the game, and the faces of the players and officials, through his eyes. He makes you feel his despair.