The Asolo hits a home run with this immensely likeable show.
By Kay Kipling
Watching David S. Howard at work in this one-man show about baseball legend Yogi Berra is like settling back in your pajamas on a cozy couch, curled up with a favorite book and a drink and knowing you’re in for a very pleasurable evening—a home run, in fact.
Nobody Don’t Like Yogi may or may not be Howard’s swan song for the Asolo Repertory Theatre (we hope not), but the piece lends itself to that feeling. Tom Lysaght’s play, set at Yankee Stadium on the occasion of former Yankee manager Berra’s return to speak there after a long absence, gives the beloved Yogi a chance to set the record straight about the break with owner George Steinbrenner that caused him to stay away. But it’s also about a man looking back on his life—a pretty darned good one—with fondness for his family, his teammates and players, and the fans who always relished the chance to hear yet another Yogi-ism.
The play offers a plethora of those famously twisted aphorisms, most of which end up conveying the truth in a way that Yogi could never have predicted. Who could dismiss the logic of statements like “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” or “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded”? And no one ever captured the spirit of New York sports fans better than with this phrase, “In New York, if you’re looking for sympathy, you move.”
That said, Lysaght wisely sprinkles those sayings throughout the evening without too heavy a hand and while doing justice to the true nature of Yogi, which seems to have been genuinely humble and fundamentally decent.
Of course, Howard holds the audience in the palm of his hand virtually from his first step onstage. His Yogi must seem nervous at first, and Howard plays that well, but he also delivers every line with a master’s timing. His performance is never corny or overdone; it strikes just the right note throughout.
Thanks to Jeffrey W. Dean’s set design, Yankee Stadium is a powerful but non-intrusive presence, from the locker room where Yogi enters to the suggestion of lights and seats in the background, accompanied by the jerseys of famous Yanks that are spotlighted when Berra reminisces about those wearing specific numbers. That adds atmosphere, but between Berra’s unique persona and Howard’s unique talent, the production could have taken place in a school cafeteria and still earned applause.
Nobody Don’t Like Yogi continues through Jan. 27 at the Historic Asolo Theater; go to www.asolo.org or call 351-8000 for tickets.