It is a touch of brilliance to use a clip of George Carlin’s classic “Baseball vs. Football” routine as an audience warm-up for John Posey’s one-man show, Father, Son & Holy Coach. That bit has the eternal power to evoke laughter comparable to Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” Father, Son & Holy Coach debuted in Los Angeles in 1993 and toured the country “for a dozen years or so.” Under the direction of Terri Hanauer, the show is buffed up to perfection in this new, multi-media production, featuring projections and sound cues as Mr. Posey commands the stage as twenty different football-crazed characters in Tupelo County, Georgia.
The core of the story is the difficult relationship between a father and son. In a culture where Friday night high school football takes on mythic proportions, the drive to excel in the sport creates tensions with a father re-living his own successes and failures on the gridiron and a son buffeted by the intense expectations of his dad. In this family, Knute Rockne is a god and his book, Coaching, the holy bible.
Fit, nimble and movie-star handsome, Mr. Posey’s physical agility is his powerful asset as his characters leap up on a locker room bench to give pre-game speeches, roll on the floor in a wrestling match, or explore the wonders of a first kiss and erotic touch with a high school beauty. His vigorous presence and warm, appealing persona is enthralling as he gives life to a local sports announcer, a somewhat damaged University of Georgia assistant coach, a five-year old child, or a smart-as-a-whip mother. There are laughs aplenty in Father, Son & Holy Coach, but also many tender, poignant moments as well. The characters are created lovingly and without condescencion.
Shoe-horned into the intimate Odyssey venue, the physical production is appealing. The production team of Pete Hickok (set), Donny Jackson (lights), Yee Eun Nam (projections), Dino Herrmann (sound) and Daryl Newmark (graphics) has provided a milieu that allows Mr. Posey to roam and romp in a tiny radio studio, on a section of AstroTurf football field, in a locker room and on a park bench. The cleverest design element is an easy chair crafted to look like a giant football helmet – Dad’s chair.
Father, Son & Holy Coach is a theatrical creation and not a memoir. Mr. Posey admits that a conflicted relationship with his father informed the central conflict of the play and that element comes across strong and clear with humor and pathos.
I laughed a lot and was touched. What more can one ask? Father, Son & Holy Coach runs through March 20 at Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.