Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Football Fan and A Theater Nerd Walk Into A Broadway House...

Since writing this article for TDF Stages on Lombardi's marketing strategy, I've been curious about who would get more out of the show--theater fans or football fans. I had the perfect opportunity to find out when my parents came to New York for a visit. I'm an avid theatergoer (I'm guessing you knew this) and I don't know anything about football. My father is a football fan who only occasionally enjoys the theater. I took him to see Lombardi, a little bit as a social experiment, but mostly because I finally found a way to spend time with my dad while combining both of our interests.

I did not expect to be so engaged in Eric Simonson's play from start to finish. In the play, fictional reporter Michael McCormick (Keith Nobbs), is assigned to profile Vince Lombardi (a convincing Dan Lauria). Most of the action takes place in the home Lombardi shares with his wife, Marie (a scene-stealing Judith Light), though a few scenes take place on the football field. There were only a few moments of football speak where I felt confused.

Usually if I see a play or film with my dad, I'll ask him what he thinks and he'll say, "It was OK," or, "I liked it," and leaves it at that. But after this show, he was eager to discuss it. First, we talked about the performances, which we agreed were the strongest aspect of the show, especially Lauria and Light. Then, we talked about how well the staging worked in the round. The theater was set up to look like a stadium, and the set pieces rotated. My father was especially impressed with the way Thomas Kail staged the action so as not to alienate any section of the audience.

We also discussed what didn't work in the play. We both found that it focused too much on the reporter character and not enough on Vince Lombardi. My father wanted to know more about Lombardi's take on football and thought that sports fans would be disappointed by how little football there was (interestingly, the play got stronger reviews from sports critics than theater critics). I came away learning a lot more than I did before about Lombardi, but I didn't really understand why he was such a legendary coach. We also both felt that the relationship between Lombardi and his son either needed to be more fully developed or dropped entirely.

At the performance I attended, I looked around at the audience to see a mix of ages, races, and genders, a few Packers jerseys, as well as your typical matinee crowd. It may not be the best play ever written, but in terms of bringing new audiences to the theater, Lombardi scores a touchdown.

1 comment:

Esther said...

Really interesting to hear both of your perspectives. I'm looking forward to seeing Lombardi.