What made Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi such a legendary figure? Who was the real man behind the mythic icon? Don't expect much insight into either of those questions in Lombardi, an NFL promotional blitz disguised as a Broadway show. It portrays Lombardi as a stern disciplinarian, spouting football philosophies about teamwork and winning, while his wife and players grouse about his single-mindedness but never really waver in their admiration of the cuddly curmudgeon. He may have been a great coach, but in Eric Simonson's adaptation of David Maraniss's Lombardi bio, When Pride Still Mattered, he's not a terribly compelling character.
On that front Lombardi, played with fiery authority by Dan Lauria, takes a backseat to his wife, Marie (the always golden Judith Light), a sensible, beleaguered, tart-tongued Easterner out of her element not only in the Midwest but also in her husbandís football-centric world. (Her pronunciation of Wisconsin towns is hilarious.) Also engaging is Keith Nobbs as pesky reporter and devout football fan Michael McCormick, assigned to spend a week with the Lombardis for a Look magazine story. The slight scribe ventures from their home to the practice field, interviewing players and becoming the only person to challenge Coach Lombardi's absolute authority.
If only someone had challenged the NFL's authority as one of the play's producers. Thomas Kail derives winning performances from his cast, which also includes Bill Dawes, Robert Christopher Riley and Chris Sullivan as assorted Packers players, but by the time Lombardi comes to view McCormick as a surrogate son, this 95-minute play feels like it's gone into OT. Lombardi has been depicted as a show that will appeal to football fans rather than traditional theatergoers, but sports fans aren't an imbecilic lot, and they deserve a show that treats their passion with the same intelligence as Proof did mathematics.
By DIANE SNYDER
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Dan Lauria, Judith Light, Keith Nobbs, Bill Dawes, Robert Christopher Riley, Chris Sullivan
Circle in the Square
235 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019