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John Lenartrz as Vince Lombardi  Photo: Angel Wuellner
John Lenartrz as Vince Lombardi Photo: Angel Wuellner

Theatre Review: "Lombardi" at the Depot Theatre in Westport

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Football's Super Bowl trophy is named for the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. Few people, however, know the real story of Vince Lombardi the man - his inspirations, his passions, and his ability to drive people to achieve more than they ever thought possible. Lombardi is the perfect way to welcome the beautiful early Autumn of the Adirondacks - with a celebration of football, teamwork, and tradition.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

The Depot Theatre is closing out their 35th season with a first-rate production of Lombardi – yes Coach Vince, that Lombardi.  Written by Eric Simonson and based on the book When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss, the play deals with the man behind the myth.  We learn not only of his philosophy, but also of his relationships with his wife Marie and three of his players, Dave Robinson, Jim Taylor and Paul Horning.  Set largely in 1965, it includes flashbacks to 1958, 1959 and 1964.  It’s structured around a series of interviews with a reporter.

Director Chris Clavelli’s simple set of two armchairs and a table backed by a large green-board with the diagram of a play and a cocktail cabinet stage right works very well for the production.  The action is enhanced by Isabella Byrd’s excellent lighting that helps focus the changes of time and place.  As always, Jean Brookman’s costumes are good, especially Marie’s final dress.

The cast is uniformly strong. I kept writing down “good actor.”  As Dave Robinson, Daryl Williams has the bearing of a real athlete.  In Kevin Bunge’s portrayal of Jim Taylor we get an authentic look at the beginnings of the NFL Players’ Association.  As the irrepressible Paul Horning, Dustyn Gulledge gives a believably irreverent performance.

Adam Petherbridge is excellent as Michael McCormick, the reporter.  His performance is thoroughly three-dimensional and he’s especially good in the Act II argument scene with Lombardi.  As Lombardi’s wife Marie, Beth Glover gives us a subtle and believable characterization that includes good comic timing, but is grounded in her genuine feelings for her husband.

As Lombardi himself, John Lenartz is simply terrific.  The coach was a complex and fascinating man.  Mr. Lenartz shows us the philosophy of Lombardi as it relates not only to football but to life.  The coach’s meticulous preparation and temper are legendary, but here we see the human being under the bluster.  He obviously cares deeply about both his wife and his players.

Director Chris Clavelli has done a fine job with the staging and has helped his cast create strong characters that we really care about.  He’s also highlighted the play’s moments of humor.  You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy Lombardi.  Yes he was a coach, but he became an iconic figure not only in sports but in 20th century America.  This production gives us a believable portrait of the human being behind the icon.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of LOMBARDI gets five boxcars.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng. 

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