With all the products, treatments, strategies, and attitudes touted as gateways to success in America, ordinariness and failure become more galling all the time — while our collective fascination with winners rises. Yet with so many siren calls, come-ons, and outrageous propositions all around us, we are occasionally surprised to be reminded that success comes at a price. Distilled from When Pride Mattered, the David Maraniss biography, Eric Simonson's Lombardi is at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre through Sept. 29. It gives us a candid snapshot of the driven football coach who rose to the top of his profession with glimpses of the people he ran over to get there, and the fatal signpost he ignored along the way.
Being abused by Lombardi makes you one of the guys. It becomes a badge of honor as McCormick and the football stars adjourn to a local bar.
Having taken us to Kentucky as Skeets Miller in Floyd Collins, Daniel O’Sullivan is on his second cub reporter assignment of the year as McCormick — and his youth is more of an asset. You can see an emphatic coming-of-age when he finally stands up to Lombardi, making it more natural for the tyrant coach to accord the kid a degree of respect. Compared with the Broadway version starring Dan Lauria and Judith Light, CAST director Michael R. Simmons isn’t interested in striking as even of a balance between Lombardi’s dark and sunny sides — or between the strengths of husband and wife. The rocky relationship between coach and journalist is gauged far more precisely.
But make no mistake about it, LaBorde gets the chemistry with McCormick just right, and in the heat of battle, either giving Lombardi’s famed “in the alley” presentation of the Green Bay Sweep or raging on the sidelines in the middle of the game, LaBorde is positively stirring. The excess Brooklynese peels away, and he’s more convincing than even Lauria. As the hall-of-famers, Joshua Wayne Gardner as Hornung, J.R. Adduci as Taylor, and Jermaine A. Gamble aren’t as Central-Casting perfect as their Broadway counterparts, but only longtime Cheeseheads or Packer haters will detect the difference.