Bob Ari gives full voice to the title character, Vince Lombardi, larger-than-life coach of the Green Bay Packers.


Vince, we hardly know ya.

Oh sure, "Lombardi," currently on the Arizona Theatre Company stage, tried to reveal a bit of the soul of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.

But there isn't much new about the man in this Eric Simonson play. Anyone who knows the bare minimum about football knows Lombardi's name is on the Super Bowl trophy, that he took a bottom-of-the-barrel Green Bay Packers team and turned them into champions in his second year as head coach, and that he famously dropped gems such as, "We didn't lose the game. We just ran out of time," and "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

To see "Lombardi," you'd think there wasn't much more to him. And hey, maybe there wasn't. Which might be a good reason not to do a play about him.

The story, while at times interesting, lacks tension and a strong arc.

So we'd call the script, based on David Maraniss' biography "When Pride Still Mattered," a field goal. But this production is definitely a touchdown.

Bob Ari gave full, bombastic voice to the title character. He made the coach vivid and present. Where Lombardi played most of his inner thoughts close to the chest, his wife, Marie, did no such thing. DeeDee Rescher wasted no time in making us fall in love with her funny, quirky and tender Marie.

The only character not based on a real person was the reporter, Michael, who has come to Green Bay in hopes of doing a definitive piece on the coach. Nick Mills was a touch stiff at first but quickly settled into the shoes of the character.

Branton Box and William Oliver Watkins played football legends Paul Hornung and Dave Robinson with swagger, fighting against the one dimension the script gave them. David Hardie had a little more to work with in his role as player Jim Taylor, who comes off as a dim bulb until he decides to confront the coach about unfair compensation.

Maybe it was the year Simonson chose to concentrate on - 1965, when Lombardi was trying to bring the team back from losing two championship games. Poor Packers, suffering from a No. 2 ranking two years in a row.

It seems 1959, when the coach first took over the miserable team, would have provided more tension and insight.

Or even the last year he coached, 1969, when Lombardi turned around the losing Washington Redskins only to die of cancer before the next season would start.

While we long for a stronger, more complex script, we want the cast we got for "Lombardi." Even working with thin material, they rocked it.

If you go

• What: "Lombardi," an Arizona Theatre Company and Cleveland Play House co-production

• Playwright: Eric Simonson, based on the book "When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi," by David Maraniss.

• Director: Casey Stangl

• When: Various times through through Nov. 10.

• Where: Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

• Reservations/information: 622-2823

• Tickets: $32-$89.

• Running time: 110 minutes, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.