By: Sandi Durell
Writer Eric Simonson has a thing for sports, having written 2010’s “Lombardi,” about football, and in 2012 “Magic/Bird” about basketball – and this year it’s all about baseball and the Yankees.
What would Yogi Berra (Peter Scolari) do? Well, with manager Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs) cryin’ and complaining about Steinbrenner giving him a hard time, Yogi has his hands full! And that’s how Act I opens at Circle in the Square on West 50th Street where the dramedy is now playing after a recent off-Broadway run. Enter Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste) to kindle more fire as the bad blood between him and Martin flair. “I may be nostalgic, but I don’t like to live in the past” says Yogi to Jackson. Before we know it, Thurman Munson (Billy Dawes who also plays Mickey Mantle) arrives and their little meeting to calm things down begins as Billy cries and shakes, afraid of losing his job.
It’s a dreamlike sentimental journey during the period when the Yankees go on to win their 21st World Series.
Peter Scolari as Yogi assumes the physicality, a bit bent over. Berra’s wife, Carmen (Tracy Shayne) descends in a bed from above to add some personal relationship and minor insight into Yogi, the husband and the man, as they discuss the problems plaguing the team and deal with 30 pounds of potatoes that were dumped on their front lawn because of some remarks Berra made while in No. Dakota about his taking over for Martin.
And it’s in Act II that the play segues into a field of dreams as all the old (and some of the new) Yankee greats make their entrances to a dinner party at the Berra’s home. Enter: Fast talking, tough living Babe Ruth in a fur coat (C.J. Wilson) – with an updated remark about being delayed because of a jam on the GW Bridge – fun loving Mickey Mantle; Elston Howard (Battiste), first black player on the team; low-key Lou Gehrig (John Wernke), just beginning to show signs of the disease that eventually killed him; catcher Thurman Munson (Dawes) and a very elegant gentlemanly Joe DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey), who shows up in a suit while the others are all in uniforms, and in walks Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson) who fills in his former team-mates about the goings-on today, announcing that “money’s a sideshow.”
The time periods float back and forth and nostalgia waxes prominently as Yogi-isms fly. If you’re not a fan of baseball, you might feel you could have spent your money and time elsewhere, but for those (like someone I know – old enough to remember watching Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees from his rooftop in the Bronx), the talented cast will bring warm and fuzzy memories.
Beowulf Boritt created the set design and costumes are by David C. Woolard.
*Photos: Joan Marcus
Circle in the Square, 235 West 50th Street, Manhattan; 212-239-6200, telecharge.com. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes.