Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sports Score - Lombardi - Play Review

Lombardi - Circle in the Square Theatre - Broadway, New York, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Eric Simonson based on a book by David Maraniss, Directed by Thomas Kail

So I saw down in my seat at the Circle in the Square Theatre, looking out onto the central stage and noticed the audience on the other side of the theatre-in-the-round was packed with a lot more men (some wearing football hats and/or jerseys) than the typical Broadway audience. A bunch of middle aged businessmen sat next to me and jovially asked me "Are you a Packers fan?". Before I could say "What's a Packer" and look like a complete fool, I realized it must be the football team Vince Lombardi was famous for, so this play Lombardi was not exactly in my realm and I was not exactly the target audience for it. And yet, the 90 min. play was engaging and terrifically entertaining, even with no knowledge of who this Lombardi guy was.

Lombardi follows a reporter who gets to interview Vince Lombardi (Dan Lauria, The Wonder Years) and follow him coach the Green Bay Packers for a week, after Lombardi lifted the Green Bay Packers from the bottom of the pack, to the Super Bowl winning team. It's a framing excuse to recount Lombardi's coaching philosophy and the underdog story of the Green Bay Packers, but it works nicely here and gives non-football fans a way in via the reporter (Keith Nobbs). It also gives us a chance to meet Vince's wife Marie Lombardi (Judith Light, Ugly Betty, Who's The Boss), who gives us a lot of the real life scoop on Vince Lombardi, the man, and the coach.

Director Thomas Kail manages to keep things moving with this simple tale of a man sprouting philosophy on football, work ethics, and life. There's nothing really revelatory or revolutionary in Simonson's story, but it's told well and manages to keep things interesting.

Much credit goes to the actors on stage, with Keith Nobbs as a fine audience entry point as the journalist trying to get the story on Lombardi. Dan Lauria is excellent as the headlining man, while Bill Dawes is particularly noteworthy as one of the seemingly smarter players on the Packers' roster.

As the sole woman in the show though, Judith Light steals Lombardi as the caustic yet warm Marie Lombardi, and Light struts and swings her drinks around with such delight, that at times, the title might refer more to the wife behind the legendary Football man, than the man himself.

The theatre-in-the-round set manages to work, with a simple set design by David Korins and lighting design by Howell Binkley, with lights in the round that allude to a football stadium.

The play never quite goes deep enough to fully explore the football legend Vince Lombardi, but in the hands of this cast and director, Lombardi manages to stay quite entertaining and enjoyable. I learned a little about football, I could root for the underdog tale, and watching Judith Light spit out pointed lines is definitely a score.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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