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Browns finally win, so does THE KARDIAC KID at Cleveland Public Theatre

Browns finally win, so does THE KARDIAC KID at Cleveland Public Theatre

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)

Sunday the Cleveland Browns won.  Later that day and carrying over to Monday, the city was abuzz.  No, the team hadn’t won the Super Bowl, the Browns had been victorious in the first game in their last eleven attempts.

Eric Schmiedl, a long time Browns backer, understands this city.  In fact, he uses the team in his play, THE KARDIAC KID, as analogy for the people of Northeastern Ohio.

He introduces and mirrors people who have endured living in the “mistake on the lake.”  They have lasted in an area noted for a burning river, the scorched hair of a mayor, weather noted for the “lake effect,” being dubbed the rust belt, and watching population and large corporations flee.  These incidents, along with the fumble, the Mesa, the interception, the loss of its football team, and the sneaky exit of its greatest basketball player, have been answered by hope, pride, and longing.  Hey, “we” won on Sunday.

The shortcomings have been overcome by producing an area with one of the country’s most vital theatre scenes, one of the world’s greatest orchestras, a fantastic art museum, some unique architectural buildings, several top rated world recognized hospitals, and unchallenged philanthropy.  And, “we” won Sunday.

Laugh at Cleveland, we laugh at ourselves!

Eric Schmiedl loves Cleveland, with all its wonders and warts.  In his self-written one man show, he journeys through the 1980-81 Brownie football season.  Yes, Brownie, for the symbol of the team at the time was a cute little elf in a football uniform.  It’s the kind of symbol that fits this city.  No.  Lions, tigers, bengals don’t fit. And, no, the dogs and the dog pound just won’t do!  A cute Brownie did the city just fine!

During his recounting the game-by-game season, he spotlights the lives and fortunes of a mixed-race girl abandoned to her Caucasian grandmother, a Roman Catholic priest and his enemy, the parish dog, a bookish tradesman from the near west side who thinks he has discovered the secret for insuring victory for the Browns, the man’s son, a New York bartender, a waiter turned cook, and other incidental characters.  They all have one thing in common…their love for the Browns.

Schmiedl peppers his script with lots of local references.  We travel to Aurora, visit a Lawson’s, are reminded of The Cleveland Press, go shopping at Randall Park Mall, eat at Ponderosa Steak House and the Pewter Mug.

Schmiedl takes us to January 4, 1981, and the last play of the playoffs.  It’s the old Cleveland Stadium, 36 degrees below zero wind chill factor.  The Browns are 2 points down, there are 32 seconds left in the game, the action begins and …  Schmiedl doesn’t ever finish the tale.  Why?  Who cares, we are Clevelanders, and whatever the outcome, we can endure.  We’ve lived through it before, we’ll live through it again, and again, and unfortunately, again.  Come on, this is Cleveland.

The Cleveland Public Theatre production is involving.  The animated Schmiedl, assisted by his trusty overlays and overhead projector, keep the audience’s interest for the entire 105 minutes (with intermission).

Capsule judgement:  You don’t have to be a Cleveland football fanatic, or even a Clevelander to enjoy Eric Schmiedl’s THE KARDIAC KID.  You don’t have to, but it helps.

THE KARDIAC KID runs through October 20.  Be aware that the curtain goes up at 7 PM.  For tickets call 216-631-2727 or go on line to