Vince Lombardi, one of professional sports’ most famous and lauded coaches, continues to fascinate sports fans and many in the general public. A legend in his own right, Lombardi brought a winning culture to each of the teams he coached. That culture is what the play Lombardi by Eric Simonson explores.
Based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Davis Maraniss, the plays looks at one week of Lombardi’s life in 1965 as the Packers are about to clinch the division championship.
After an unflattering profile appears in a national magazine, Look Magazine sends a young reporter Michael McCormick (Chris Moses) to interview Lombardi (Bart Hansard) and find out what makes his teams win. At first the team is unaccepting of him, but Marie Lombardi (Carolyn Cook) helps find ways to reach the players as she herself tells him stories about Lombardi and the team.
The play itself is a motivational piece about doing your best and being yourself, a message that will resonate with sports fans. Those looking for intense drama or a strong character study will find the play lacking. It does, however, feature fantastic performances from some of the city’s best talent.
Hansard brings a personal touch to Lombardi. There’s a sense of genuine kindness behind the rough exterior of the character. He balances wonderfully to Cook’s tense and wearied Marie. She captivates the audience with each scene she is in whether she is telling a heartfelt story or arguing with Vince while calming him down at the same time. The play also includes Jacob York, John Stewart and Brody Wellmaker as players on the Packers team.
Under the direction of Justin Anderson, the production uses an LED screen with historical video footage that integrates with the story very well. Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have designed a workable set the functions as the Lombardi’s home and the football field.
An enjoyable look at one of football’s most legendary figures, Lombardi runs through February 9, 2014 at Aurora Theatre. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is a little under an hour and half without an intermission.
– Kenny Norton