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Stage

A singular approach to the master of malaprops

Nobody Don't Like Yogi explores the nature of the baseball icon known for twisting a phrase.

By ROBERT HICKS
Published January 4, 2007


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Asolo Theatre Company's Australian-born producing director, Michael Donald Edwards, first saw Tom Lysaght's one-man show about New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra four years ago in New York.

"I was struck by how people loved this character of Yogi Berra and that he transcended his role as a baseball player," Edwards said. "He's a cultural icon for many people. I was fascinated with this. It's a typical foreigner's perspective on American culture."

Asolo Repertory Theatre will present Lysaght's Nobody Don't Like Yogi at its historic Asolo Theater in Sarasota through Jan. 25.

David S. Howard plays Berra.

"I read everything I could about Yogi and saw tapes of him," said Howard, a Yankees fan since his youth in Westchester County, N.Y. "I've always admired his simplicity and honesty. As a ball player and as a very interesting person, I've always thought he was an American icon."

The play is a tender and adoring portrait of Berra. On one level, it's a memory play about Berra's days as a baseball player and manager with the Yankees.

On another level, it's an examination of father-son relationships and the role family played in Berra's life. More important, it's about Berra's coming to terms with his past and his "homecoming."

In the play, it has been 14 years since Yankees owner George Steinbrenner fired Berra as manager of the Yankees in 1985. Berra is finally returning to Yankee Stadium to speak on Opening Day of the 1999 season.

"It celebrates Yogi as a folk philosopher," Edwards said. "As a manger of a team and as a father, he had a philosophy of life and management that is very much about bringing out the strengths and what he calls the good in each individual. He wants to actualize the best in an individual. I guess we see George Steinbrenner as a kind of owner who was quite authoritarian and harsh in forcing people to conform."

Memory plays a big role in the play via voiceovers from other Yankee greats and through Berra's nostalgia for his past.

"I'm emphasizing the powerful nature of memory," Edwards said.

Berra recounts his years as a player, manager and father and the incident with Steinbrenner. He must answer two basic questions in the play: Why did he stay away so long? Why did he decide to come back after 14 years?

His answers do not come easily, but his journey, through comedy, mourning and tender self-examination, reveals a lot about Yogi Berra as a man and about life.

 

Nobody Don't Like Yogi

8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, through Jan. 27. Historic Asolo Theater at the Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bayshore Road, Sarasota. (941) 351-8000; www.asolo.org.

 

[Last modified January 3, 2007, 15:15:31]


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