Nobody Don't Like Yogi
Lamb's Theater, New York
Yogi Berra is one of baseball's all-time greats. This one-man show allows Ben Gazzara to portray Berra as an old man reflecting on the ups and downs of a life in the spotlight.
The ostensible occasion is the great man's first visit to Yankee Stadium since he was unceremoniously dumped by George the owner. That was fourteen years before and we eventually learn the reason why one of the team's greatest heroes could not face his spiritual home.
Within an attractive set, designed by Tony Walton that combines stadium, locker room and office, the story of Berra's unsuccessful season as manager and the problems of having his son Dale on the roster are unfolded.
The pain that the man felt is obvious to see in Gazzara's performance. This contrasts with nostalgia for happier days. As a rookie, Berra had been the first pinch-hitter to hit a home run in the World Series. Perhaps surprisingly, the good times are not covered in the same detail as the bad.
As well as his prowess on the field, Berra was legendary for his "sayings" that were more like a pair of feet than just one in mouth. This was a man who regularly said things like, "I'd like to be an everyday player if that means I get to play every day".
Playwright, Tom Lysaght allows Gazzara to have lots of fun with these, which reach their apotheosis with one that must be in many dictionaries of quotations, "It ain't over till it's over".
The eighty-minute performance is really designed as a homage to a baseball great and is proving pretty popular with New Yorkers and especially Yankees fans.
It can be a little indigestible for those who do not know the game or legend too well. Even they will be able to rejoice in some of the Yogi-isms that this surprisingly gentle, likeable man could contradictorily trot out at will.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher