Field of pipe dreams
I love baseball. Some go for the survival-of-the-fittest style of football, but I prefer baseball’s easy pace. It lets me watch each player’s progress through a season, how they fight their way out of slumps, how they support each other. It’s not about who’s bigger; it’s about how well they work together to employ a strategy. Baseball is life. When Joe Montegna conceived Bleacher Bums in 1977, now on stage at the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City, he must have felt that way, too.
This Proscenium Players, Inc. production, directed by Carla Wilson, takes place at Wrigley Field. The year is 1998. Mark McGwire and the Cardinals are about to take on Sammy Sosa and the Cubs. Behind that famed, ivy-covered brick wall, fans clad in red or blue take their seats for an afternoon game, pulling giant foam fingers out of tote bags.
Melody (Erin Keith), the bikini-clad sun worshipper, lays out her towel to catch some rays. Greg (Joseph Paslov), a blind man, tunes his transistor radio to the game. Zig, played by the show’s producer, John H. Meierdierck, arrives with his Cubs hat and score card. Soon his score-card cohorts arrive: There’s Decker (Robin Scott Miles), fresh from the office in his shirt and tie; Richie (James Axelson), the goofy teenager; and Marvin (Jaime Dunbar), with his slick Chicago accent and Godfather-like clothes.
The announcer, Tom Strekal, introduces the starting lineup, and it’s time to play ball. Because we know this is a Cubs game, we expect these fans to get their hearts broken. Zig, Decker and the score-card gang immediately begin placing ridiculously high bets on their beloved Cubbies. Meanwhile, Greg keeps us updated on the game, thanks to his transistor radio.
Throughout the game, the “cheerleader,” played by Dave Josten, makes several appearances to get Cubs fans riled up. While several performances here are very good, I can’t even explain how entertaining Josten is. Seeing him in suspenders, his big, bare belly covered in body paint, as he yells, “Cubbies Woo-Hoo!” is alone worth the price of admission.
As for the story, side plots develop, involving a romance for Melody, a convoluted series of bets and controversy, an estranged married couple reconnecting, and, of course, the drama that always accompanies a Cubs game. High points include Paslov’s funny and convincing performance as Greg, Miles’ very likable Decker, and Dunbar as Marvin, the guy we love to hate.
Meierdierck as Zig and Keith as Melody stumble along a bit though, creating awkward moments while they struggle to remember their lines. But that may have just been opening-night jitters.
I would love to have heard more ambient sound throughout the show—crowds cheering, that crack of the bat hitting the ball, all those sounds that make a baseball game an experience.
But I love that the theater sold beer, popcorn and frosty malts. Make sure you bring a couple bucks.
The play runs nine abbreviated innings and even includes a third-inning stretch—intermission. ’Tis the season, so if you love baseball, or if you’ve ever wondered how those Cubs fans keep hanging on, you’ll enjoy this show. I won’t tell you who wins the game, though; you’ll just have to buy your ticket like everyone else.