Vince Lombardi remains one of the most studied and mythologized figures in the history of professional football, a man of tremendous talent and fascinating contradictions. “Lombardi,” written by Eric Simonson, is both a warts-and-all portrait of the legendary coach and a glimpse into his occasionally volatile personal life, and the show will be presented as a staged reading by Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre next week.
“He was such a theatrical character,” said Jorie Jones, the director of the production, “so it just makes sense to make a play about him.”
CST’s production of “Lombardi” will be a stylistically minimal one. It will be presented in black box style, with the actors reading directly from their scripts. There will be few, if any, props and spare costuming, which boils the art of theater down to its most necessary components.
“The actors have to bring the piece to life with just their voices and the microphone,” Jones said. “Actors love staged readings. You can just take in what they’re saying instead of looking at the sets and costumes. It’s really getting down to what the play is about.”
Simonson’s play is set over the course of a week in November 1965, during Lombardi’s celebrated coaching stint with the Green Bay Packers. Journalist Michael McCormick (played in the staged reading by Chris Mudd) is assigned to profile the famously cantankerous coach, and he travels to Wisconsin to stay at the Lombardi household for a short period of time.
“(McCormick) sort of gets a VIP pass to the inside life of Vince Lombardi and his crazy antics,” Jones said.
Lombardi, played by Todd Jasmin, turns out to be as unpredictable at home as he is on the field. His wife Marie (Sarah Miller), meanwhile, is a headstrong woman who doesn’t allow her husband to treat her like she’s on one of his teams. “Lombardi” is basically a chamber piece, bound to the Lombardi residence for most of its running time, but it occasionally dips into flashbacks as Lombardi remembers his past glories and downfalls.
“He knew what he was doing,” Jones said. “Football was his life. He spent all of his nights watching the plays over and over again on his projector. It took over his life, and ultimately, that’s what probably helped kill him.”
Though “Lombardi” is a sports story, a preexisting knowledge of its subject (or of the mechanics of football) isn’t required. This is a character study, first and foremost, a look at a man whose biggest fear was losing, and whose past traumas seemed to fuel his competitive spirit. He was a fascinating figure, both in real life and on the stage.
“One moment we see him as a tactical genius, and then the next minute we see him as a screaming lunatic,” Jones said. “It gives us a chance to see what he was truly like. He loved God, family and football, and not necessarily in that order. … The play’s really good about showing that.”
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