by Richard, CEO
It was only a matter of time before the team that most people associate primarily with New York made their landing on Broadway. And so it’s no surprise that the new play Bronx Bombers (a new play by Eric Simonson, who also brought us Lombardi) is making its Broadway debut this month in the Circle on the Square theater. This is a play for just about every generation. In subtle, nudging ways it speaks to the disputes and rivalries that divide us, transposed against the things that bind us as families and social groups. In the story, it’s the Bronx Bombers of old but in reality, it’s any of us with multi-generational family experiences
The story is set, for the most part, in an NYC hotel room, where a cast of characters bearing names like Ruth and DiMaggio, Berra and Jeter and other Bronx greats come to rehash their days as New York Yankees. Looking backwards, the show tracks the ball playing experiences of several prominent Yankees. We see players from the 1930’s all the way up to the current team.
The glue that holds the story together is the great Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, played wonderfully by Peter Scolari. With just enough age and stoop of shoulder, Scolari does a very good portrayal of the Yankee great. It is Berra who acts the patriarchal figure to the sort of childish, petulant, and often egotistical other members of the elite Yankee teams. It is Berra who encourages their attendance and it is Berra who guides their awareness of the greater good.
The central story focuses on the infamous egotistical tug-of-war that existed between the manager Billy Martin and the larger than life, cocky Reggie Jackson. In one never to be forgotten game, Martin and Jackson got into a very public shouting match during a game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston. Shouting and kept apart only through the efforts of Yogi Berra, their famous spat almost tore the Yankees apart. Many Yankee players resented Reggie for his showboating tactics but valued his athletic contributions. One of those in that hate/love/hate relationship was the late Thurmond Munson, another great Yankee catcher.
In the play, the acting is very strong and the dialog spot on. You believe its Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin. Munson is on point, Berra is Berra as a man; not just a character. Reggie is good as is this DiMaggio. Gehrig is as we remember him. Excellent portrayals all around.
In this play, Yogi is the presence that wraps all of the players in the blanket called the New York Yankees. It is Yogi who explains in soft and hard ways the importance of remembering who they were: Yankees. Reggie is but one of the egos in the room. DiMaggio had no peer for his aloofness while Mantle had no peer for his fun-filled, drinking antics. The line of famous catchers (Berra, Elston, Howard, and Munson) appear as the players who are always focused on the bigger picture. Reggie and Joe D focused on themselves, Gehrig was self effacing but still resented the way the press lauded over Ruth. Billy Martin was fighting alcoholic demons virtually all his Yankee life. Only Derek Jeter seems to be lacking an interfering ego.
If you see these Yankee superstars of old as stand-ins for your past and present family of uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, in law and outlaws, you will understand the power a story can have on the audience. The things that bind us can be better and stronger then the things that separate us. The pride of Yankee family was bigger, more important, and always everlasting than the errors of these flawed human beings.
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