It is often said that sports stories make great drama. But “Lombardi,” a lightweight and sentimental portrait of the revered Green Bay Packers football coach, lacks any spark of conflict. It cares more about sports trivia and worshipping its main character than genuine storytelling.
Eric Simonson’s play will teach theatergoers quite a lot about Vince Lombardi’s career, background and personality.
The play is framed around the cliched and tired device of a reporter assigned to write an article about Lombardi. He proceeds to conduct interviews and watch over flashbacks.
Luckily, the play benefits from the spirited performance of Dan Lauria, who is remembered for playing the father on “The Wonder Years,” as Lombardi. With a heavy presence and barking most of his lines, Lauria presents Lombardi as alternatively temperamental, befuddled and giddy.
He is especially convincing when addressing the audience as if they were his football players during Lombardi’s famously rousing pep talks.
Supporting Lauria is Judith Light as Lombardi’s long-suffering wife Marie. Always clutching a drink, Light delivers razor-sharp satirical line readings that inject a much-needed dose of humor into the production.
Thomas Kail, best known for directing “In the Heights,” provides a fine in-the-round staging that makes the theater feel like a miniature football stadium, complete with arena-style lighting.
Archival video footage of football games is projected onto side screens and even the stage floor.