A Cubs fan is a strange beast. I have a Chicago-raised, Los Angeles-living friend who travels to Chi-town to see a game or two. This special breed of homo sapien has cheered the team on to defeat year after year. One year after the first pitch of the first game, a fan waved a banner that read, “Wait ’til Next Year.” Oh, they have won the World Series twice: 1907 and 1908. As the season opens a true Cubs fan is always saying, “This will be the year.”
Baseball has more statistics than anything else in life and the Bleacher Bums, true Cubbies fans, know them all. Developed and penned by Joe Mantegna and the Organic Theatre Company, it is currently at OnStage Playhouse, in Chula Vista, under Bruce Wilde’s direction. Ten actors provide the uninitiated with a delightful cross-section of the bleacher denizens at Wrigley Field as the Cubs play those nasty St. Louis Cardinals.
The show opens with Rose (Connie Terwilliger) searching the stands for her bleacher bum, gambling husband. The younger generation is represented by The Kid, played by young newbie Melanie Haag thus, assuring that of there is a continuing tradition die- hard fans. Incidentally, a tombstone of a longtime fan yearning for the World Series, is inscribed “Couldn’t Wait!”
The lovely Melody (Angie Doren) settles in, removing her cover-up; clad only in short shorts and a very revealing halter top. Being a bleacher bum allows for a cheap seat at the game and an opportunity for a good tan. Greg (Nathan Dean Snyder), who sits next to Melody, calls the play-by-play into his cassette recorder. He doesn’t miss a moment, following the play perfectly, even though he’s blind. Alas, he misses the beauty beside him or does he?
Suited and shirt and tied is Decker (Jerry Young) playing hooky from his hardware store. He places an occasional bet with some of the others. Marvin (Steven P. McLaughlin) is the bleacher’s serious gambler. He’ll take bets on anything, establishing odds that these Cubs fans can’t resist. He makes a good living. Zig (James P. Tarbert), a compulsive gambler, seems to be throwing the family money away. His wife, Rose, eventually finds him and we find that she is a closet Cubs fan who knows more than her husband.
Richie (Brandon Cano-Errecart), a nerd’s nerd, keeps extensive stats while running errands for some of the other bums. Brandon has some of the best moments in the play. Richie’s attempt to get up the courage to pick up Melody is absolutely a brilliant piece of silent comedy.
Finally, we are bothered by the totally annoying Cheerleader (Daniella Trimble) with a talent for offending a Cards outfielder. She unrolls a large, bleacher-sized banner which, if totally revealed, would definitely offend the whole visiting team as well as a majority of the audience. We also meet The Guard (Carter) briefly when he tries to oust one of the rowdies.
Nine innings in 90 minutes. It’s fun, even for a non-sports fan like me. What makes this show so believable are the sound effects created by community theatre’s sound guru David Farlow. This is an intense track with almost no silence. Never on stage, yet always present, is the PA Announcer (Bob Christiansen). His voice creates the reality that the bleacher bums play off of much of the time.
Bleacher Bums is a fun production. Probably much too short for the die hard sports fan and a bit too long for the person that doesn’t know a hard ball from a soft ball. There is so much more than sports and idiotic bets and odds. The relationship between Rose and Zig is, at times, quite touching. There is a nice bit between Greg and Melody. You are guaranteed to learn something new about baseball and gambling. Most importantly you will learn about that strange world at Wrigley Field of the Bleacher Bums. Incidentally, the Cubs even have an annual convention at the Hilton in Chicago.
Connie Terwilliger, Jerry Young, Brandon Cano-Errecart, Carter, Angie Doren, Melanie Haag, Steven McLaughlin, Nathan Dean Snyder, James P. Tarbert and Daniella Trimble with Bob Christiansen’ voice
AD Kat Kowalski, Co-Producers Marge Hale & Betsy Keller,
Total Rating: Two Stars
Author: Joe Mantegna & the Organic Theatre Company
Director: Bruce Wilde
Date Reviewed: March 14, 2008
Dates: Thurs thru Sunday, to April 5, 2008
Running Time: 104 minutes with no intermission
291 Third Avenue
Chula Vista, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 422-RSVP