NAUGATUCK — Unlike the team it’s based on, the new stageplay in the borough is a real winner.
The Phoenix Stage Company in Naugatuck opened its doors last weekend for the inaugural presentation of “Bleacher Bums,” a play about eight diverse Chicago Cubs Fans in the 1980s who, despite their team’s constant struggles, still love their hometown heroes.
The theater, a storefront establishment on Rubber Avenue, was put together in just five weeks and hosted its ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday and its first full production Saturday.
The theater itself is small, seating only 75 people. The quant establishment has a large stage, freshly-painted walls, a concession stand in the rear, and a funky, outer space-themed carpet left behind by the previous occupant, Fun Zone Family Center.
Guests enter the building to the sound of themed music—in this case, the sounds of “Sweet Caroline,” “YMCA,” and “Put Me In, Coach”—and are offered free popcorn at their seats, because, after all, the show is about a ballgame.
The cast is highlighted by a bikini-wearing young woman, a cigar-smoking, degenerate gambler, a blind man who gives his take on every play, and an outspoken topless male whose voice never dips below a scream.
The actors and actresses often reference and discuss past superstars such as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire, but the majority of their conversations focus around betting and their hometown Cubbies.
Although they lose more often then not, the majority of the actors—all but one, that is— can’t muster the will to bet against their heroes. They make excuses for their hometown heroes like, proclaiming a “bad hop” or an errant wind the minor causes of the Cubs’ major disasters.
They bet on everything from the outcome of the game to players getting on base to men getting women’s phone numbers in the stands. The dialogue is comical and the back-and-forth banter kept the audience attentive throughout.
The one fan who bets against the Cubs explains he “only came to Wrigley [Field] because he can’t lose, otherwise he’d be at the track.” The others deem Wrigley “the only place in the city they can come to relax,” although they never really seem to at ease, constantly cheering and yelling their support and disbelief.
The play is not necessarily tailored to children, as expletives frequently rain down from the stands, and at one point a banner stretched across the stage displays a strong obscenity toward the opposing team.
The game has its ups and downs and the cast in the stands reacts to each twist and turn. In the end, as per usual, the Cubs lose. The fans though, let the loss somehow roll of their backs after dreading it the entire game.
Even after a disappointing loss and an acknowledgment that the Cubs are having “not a bad year, a bad century,” they disperse to “celebrate,” assuring one another they will all be back there tomorrow and the Cubbies will be sure to win.
The actors and actresses disperse with the man who betted and cheered against the Cubs the only person left standing, resonating the message that the team and the people of the bleachers stick together, and if you’re a Cubs fan your part of the Cubs family.