It is tough to come away from a play thinking the acting was fantastic, but the direction and script were somewhat of a mystery. The mystery being the point of the play in general.
That’s the case in the Arizona Theatre Company’s newest production of “Lombardi.”
For those who don’t know, Vincent Lombardi was the success behind the Green Bay Packers winning multiple championships in the 1960s.
The play “Lombardi” tried to focus on the man outside of football, but it didn’t appear there was a man outside of football, leaving the audience wondering what the heck was the point of doing a nearly two-hour play about him.
The script is based on biography, “When Pride Still Mattered,” written by David Maraniss.
While the NFL Super Bowl trophy is his namesake, Lombardi remains a man of legends and myth. “Lombardi” looks to explore the man behind the legend through the premise of a reporter coming to Green Bay to get an up-close view of the man who brought the Packers back to stardom.
It’s November, 1965, and Look Magazine reporter, Michael McCormick (played by Nick Mills), gets the opportunity to write the sports article of a lifetime. His boss arranges for him to stay a week as the house guest of Vincent Lombardi and is given unprecedented access to the practice field.
As a side note, McCormick is the only fictional character in the play.
Mills plays the struggling reporter trying to find his way, with the ghost of his father clouding his vision well. He was stiff at first, but he wins the audience over by the end.
Bob Ari takes on the leading role as the man himself. Ari owned the stage, capturing the audience with his thunderous quotes and mannerisms, showed passion for the game he loved, and knowledge of how to win games, because after all “winning is the only thing.”
Lombardi’s wife, Marie Lombardi, plays a key role in filling the blanks for McCormick, who quickly finds out there’s not much beyond football in Lombardi’s life.
Playing the part of Marie is Deedee Rescher, who turned in the standout performance of the night with her quirkiness, and lovability.
Shedding some light on Lombardi’s coaching style were players based on real-life athletes from the 1960s.
William Oliver Watkins played the part of Richard David Robinson, who was the starting left side linebacker for the Green Bay Packers after being drafted in 1963. He remained with the Green Bay Packers for 10 seasons before finishing his career with the Washington Redskins in 1975.
Branton Box played the part of Paul Hornung, one of the most versatile players ever to play professional football, being selected first overall in the 1957 draft. Hornung led Green Bay to four league championships, and was twice voted MVP.
David Hardie plays tough man Jim Taylor, the running back for the Green Bay Packers from 1958-1966, selected 15th overall in the 1958 draft.
The players in the production turned in solid performances, although sometimes a little too clean to be believed as tough-guy football players from the Lombardi era.
For the football fan at heart, the production provides some insight. I didn’t know Lombardi coached with the Giants for five seasons before taking on the heading-coaching job in Green Bay.
I didn’t know how successful he was as a high school coach, and, I didn’t know he thought about giving up football to become a banker.
But, at the end of the day, rather than sitting through a two-hour production about it, I could’ve probably looked up those facts online.