Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The play follows coach Vince Lombardi (Ray Abruzzo) through a week of the 1965 football season as he attempts to lead the Packers to the championship. A reporter from Look magazine, Michael McCormick (Antonio Amadeo), wants to "find out what makes Lombardi win." Lombardi welcomes Michael's interview as he hopes it will balance out a recent unflattering interview in Esquire magazine. Michael interviews players on the team, Lombardi's wife Marie (Laura Turnbull), and Lombardi himself in an attempt to get to know the man behind the legend. He finds Lombardi a mass of contradictions: quick-tempered, loud, domineering, passionate and caring. After he writes his story, Michael reveals to Lombardi that he is quitting Look to form his own publishing company. Lombardi congratulates him on his move to independence and celebrates the win with Michael and Marie. Michael realizes that Lombardi is "the most imperfect, perfect man" he ever met.
Abruzzo has a firm grasp on the drive and tunnel-vision determination that were part of the nature of Lombardi. He blusters and bellows mightily. He is so focused on the blustering that he actually trips over a few of his lines. Lombardi's fumbled attempt at retelling a joke actually makes him more likeable. Abruzzo cannot rewrite the script but he can ease up a bit on stressing the coach and give us more of the man by showing some vulnerability and doubt.
As Marie, Laura Turnbull is nicely turned out in the fashions of the period, usually sporting a highball as her favorite accessory. They seem to fortify Marie against the brusque nature of her husband, who seldom seems to say her name with saying "shut up" before it. Turnbull lets just enough of the love shine through that has surely held them together. She is not truly put upon, but rather is an emotional touch stone to a man driven to obsession by his passion for football.
Antonio Amadeo has a likable charm and youthful energy as Michael. His accent seems to vanish after 10 minutes, however, and then reappears for brief visits during his performance. Skye Whitcomb turns in a commanding performance as Jim Taylor. His anger, accent work and physicality make him completely believable. His argument scene with Lombardi late in the show is one of the strongest moments in the show.
From Lambeau Field to Lombardi's office, his home, the locker room, and a local bar, set design by Douglas Grinn maximizes Mosaic's black-box space creatively for this production. One does not have to be a football aficionado to enjoy this look at the private life of famed coach Vince Lombardi, though it may help.
Simonson created an earlier version of the play entitled Lombardi: The Only Thing, which was produced in 2007 by the Madison Repertory Theatre. After some interest surfaced in a Lombardi play for Broadway, Simonson "developed an entirely new play leaving only one five-minute scene from the original script." That production had a pre-Broadway tryout at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in July of 2010. Lombardi premiered on Broadway on October 21, 2010, at the Circle in the Square Theatre. It closed on May 22, 2011, after 30 previews and 244 performances.
Lombardi will be appearing through December 4, 2011, at the Mosaic Theatre. The Mosaic Theatre is located on the campus of American Heritage School, which is located at 12200 west Broward Blvd in Plantation, Florida. Performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Saturdays at 3:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Ticket prices are $37 for adults, $31 for senior citizens and $15 for students. For tickets and information you may contact the Mosaic Theatre by phone at 954-577-8243 or on line at www.mosaictheatre.com.
* Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States