“Lombardi” at Cleveland Play House
Who was Vince Lombardi? Before last Thursday evening, I would have answered simply, “some football coach.” But now, I could tell you a whole lot more. Lombardi opens the season at Cleveland Play House in the beautiful Allen Theatre. And it is well worth the ticket price for both the football fan and the “sports-challenged” individual, alike.
First, it is important to note that Lombardi is not a “football play.” It is a biographical play about a human being… a man, who just happened to be a football coach. Also, Lombardi is not a one-man show, but a traditional play with a cast of six bringing the story to life on the Allen Stage.
Based upon the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss, the play was written by Eric Simonson. And this production is directed by the amazing Casey Stangl. Lombardi takes place during a week in November 1965, with some “flashbacks” to 1958, 1959 and 1964. A young reporter from Look magazine visits Vince and his wife, Marie, with the intent of writing an article about Lombardi and find out what makes him win. And as he learns more about the famed football coach, so do we.
Not only is this production an excellent choice to open the new season, but also very timely with the fall football season in full-swing. But again, it is not a “football play.” It is a rather clever and touching comedy-drama that allows the audience into someone’s heart and soul. The very talented cast is headlined by the great Bob Ari (notable for playing artist Mark Rothko in last year’s Red) in the title role. Other stand-out actors include Branton Box, in his stage debut, as Green Bay Packer Paul Hornung, and the delightful DeeDee Rescher as Marie Lombardi. Ms. Rescher steals every scene in which she appears. She is so endearing and so funny that you cannot help falling in love with her.
I am not a football fan… never have been, nor did I know anything about Vince Lombardi before I saw this play. Yet I very much enjoyed it, more than I might have imagined, and I found it to be a truly moving and enlightening experience. And this is one of the many things that I love about theatre, and Cleveland Play House, in particular. CPH opens one’s mind to new and unfamiliar themes, issues and stories. And the magic of theatre is always alive at CPH.
Lombardi is a play of great depth with a very personal, very human story. And anyone who might question his/her own personal interest in the play should take a chance. You might be surprised, but you will not be disappointed. Lombardi is a homerun… or uh… how about a touchdown? You get the point… it is a damn good production. Go see it. Lombardi runs through October 7.
Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first and longest-running professional theatre company, is in its 97th season of entertaining Greater Cleveland audiences. For more information about Cleveland Play House, Lombardi, or the 2012-2013 Season, please visit the CPH website at www.ClevelandPlayHouse.com. More information about PlayhouseSquare can be found at www.PlayhouseSquare.org.
– Christopher S. Musselman