Fran Kirmser, Tony Ponturo
Quinvita, Primary Stages
In association with The New York Yankees
And Major League Baseball Properties
Peter Scolari as Yogi Berra
(Bronx Bombers Website)
A New American Play
Written and Directed by Eric Simonson
Conceived by Fran Kirmser
Circle in the Square
(Circle in the Square Website)
50th Street, at 1633 Broadway
Francois Battiste, Chris Henry Coffey, Bill Dawes
Christopher Jackson, Keith Nobbs, Tracy Shayne,
John Wernke, CJ Wilson, Brandon Dahlquist,
Clark Jackson, Karyn Quackenbush, Jeff Still
Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Jason Lyons
Original Music and Sound Design: Lindsay Jones
Wig and Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Press: Polk & Co.
Marketing Coordinator: Marissa Stoll
Advertising and Marketing: Spotco
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Production Manager: Aurora Productions
Casting: Stephanie Klapper
Production Stage Manager: Adam John Hunter
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 13, 2014
Having spent time as a child at Fenway Park, I shouldn’t love the Yankees, but I do. With MLB Properties and The New York Yankees listed on the production, I had eagerly awaited this show. But, after the curtain fell, it was the array of Yankees memorabilia in the Circle in the Square lobby that stayed in the memory bank, with the lifeless, slick characters fading in the outfield. Eric Simonson wrote and directed this play, and I had liked his Lombardi, also staged at this theater. But, then, he had brought in an outside director and included a wide array of projected videos of football and Lombardi clips. Now, in Bronx Bombers, action and dialogue seemed so small on this expansive circular stage. It appeared they ran short of funding, or so it seemed. Nothing projected, no play on words. Dialogue was thin, elusive, shallow.
Peter Scolari, as Yogi Berra, had a central role, keeping the team mutually supportive. It was 1977, when the show opens, and Yogi is a coach. They’re in Boston, in a Sheraton Hotel room, as room service comes and goes with carts filled with coffees and pastries and more. Scolari walks in a manic manner, spouting non-sequiturs, keeping the mood light. Bill Dawes, as Captain Thurman Munson, struts about, in conflict with Francois Battiste as Reggie Jackson, outfielder, and Keith Nobbs as Billy Martin, Manager. Tempers are sparked, as Martin had benched Jackson in “last night’s” game, and deeply ingrained pride and prejudices seem couched within the argument. But, The Yankees overdo the public relations gloss on the play’s dialogue, and it comes across as sound-bites, spin, salesmanship. Behind the scenes, ballplayers don’t mince words. Later in the show, a surreal dream dinner takes place, with Yogi’s wife, Carmen Berra (Tracy Shayne, Scolari’s offstage wife, as well) serving and hosting, with her adored and adoring, nervous husband. For the gala dinner, Christopher Jackson appears as Derek Jeter (more advance PR?), Dawes returns as Mickey Mantle, CJ Wilson arrives as Babe Ruth, of all people, John Wernke arrives as Lou Gehrig, limping and falling (yes, milking the crowd before spring season), Chris Henry Coffey arrives as Joe DiMaggio, in a snazzy suit, and Francois Battiste returns as Elston Howard. Wilson was also Bobby Sturges earlier on. Of course the players chide DiMaggio, until he switches to pinstripes, and they all resolve differences and disagreements. The magic of The Yankees, as some return to heaven, while the rest return to the Bronx.
Peter Scolari has Yogi down pat. But, this show was meant for a small stage (originally Primary Stages), where I wish I’d seen it instead. It’s an intimate play, with dialogue and gestures better heard and seen up close. If this show returns to a larger stage, in a new incarnation, it needs robust Yankee videos, more media, more credible conflict. Beowulf Boritt’s set is minimal for this expansive venue, even with scenery that rises and lowers. David C. Woolard had a head start with pinstripes on so many players, and Jason Lyons’ lighting was mostly effective in spotlighted monologues. Lindsay Jones’ music and sound needed energy. I do, though, still love The Yankees and hope to get to a game this season.