1985 Reviewed by Al Bresloff

Written by: Chas Vrba1985ButtonColor

Directed by: Eric Roach

To many sports fans in Chicago, the importance is in the winning. For many years, we have had our” lovable losers” and the “near Bears”. Sports is more of a religion than an entertainment and not just for the men- women are the same way. Go to a  Blackhawk game and you will see just as many women yelling and screaming and waiting for a fight to break out as men. Basketball is more of a “glamor sport” and in baseball we have two teams, the South Side winners and the North Side losers. But in football it is “Da Bears” and that is truly what 1985 is, a tribute to the Superbowl winning Chicago Bears of the 1985 season ( which of course ended in 1986 with the Super Bowl). Written by Chas Vrba, who I understand is a lifelong fan, this 110 minute production is filled with many truths, many myths and lots of laughs. Is it possible that a Bears fan could give up on his/her team? Is there really a group of fans who would do anything to change their lifestyle and give up the team? Could any of this happen?

Vrba’s story deals with a small group  of 8 fans, a den, so to speak, that watch games together and know all about each others lives until a newcomer enters the scene, Julia, a beautiful fan who they know little about (Laura McKenzie is a highly energetic actress who can go from spectator, to seductress to little girl with great ease). To get her profile, sportswriter Winston ( played by playwright Vrba with just the right touch) who was born to love his teams ( Cubs and Bears) only to have his heart broken year after year. Can he find something else in life that will outweigh what he was born to feel? These two do find a certain special link to each other. One that I cannot reveal in full as it will ruin the story, but I can tell you what happens for them is a love story of a different type.

Directed by Eric Roach on a small but usable set designed by Angelina Martinez we are treated to an energetic crew of actors who appear to really be the sports fans that we see at our sports arenas year after year. Devoted to their team and despite having the wind knocked out of them each year, they come back and cheer even harder. This script reaches a bit towards the comic sense of Orwell’s “1984” Orwell called Serious sport ,war without the shooting as it is filled with hate ( we hate the other team) jealousy ( how did they get him to play that well?), bragging ( just think of the Sox World Series several years ago and the taunting those fans gave our Cub fans) and the pleasure of beating the snot out of the other guys.

Factory Theater is another one of those “storefronts” I keep bringing up. a building that probably was a factory years ago, or at least a warehouse, located in what was then an industrial area, Elston Avenue near Kedzie and Addison, and has been converted into a somewhat comfortable theater space. The stage is the floor and the seating is on risers with the exception of a few rows on the floor depending on the design for each show. It is a troupe that has some solid talent and their following truly enjoys the innovative fun things they do- I do as well. Their energy is wonderful and they truly project the images and characters that Vrba has witnessed at sporting events or known outside of the theater world that he calls “home”. I guess he has another life- the sports world, or is it just “Da Bears”?

The Bear Nation cast, in addition to Vrba and McKenzie includes, O’Brien ( Scott Oken is wonderful as the ultimate fan who is also Winston’s boss), Mike Ooi as nerdy Parsons, Timothy C. Amos as Matt who in the beginning of the play shows his true colors , wearing a Packers T-shirt and is brought back to his sanity by a trial and a stun gun. Stew and Diane ( Stacie Barra and Manny Tamato ) are the couple in the den and both are vigorous fans who only speak “Beartalk”. The last member of the group, Gina ( Christy Arington) lusts for Winston but there is one more character, one who is always in our sight and their minds, one Papa Bear George Halas played on video and live by Ernie Deak who has this character ( and he was a character) down fairly well. Each member of the cast exudes the energy that one might expect of a true sports fan as we watch them head into their own world of Don Quixote– “to reach the impossible dream”. A tip of the cap to Matt Engle for his fight Choreography and Kate Donalek for her video. Vrba has hit the nail on the head with his script and Roach has painted an all to real picture of the Chicago sports fan.

One of the great things about our storefront theaters is the cost of a ticket. In most cases, you can enjoy live theater for a fraction of what you might pay for the big shows in town, and in many cases, the entertainment they provide is Superior to the latter.

Recommended

Al Bresloff
Tickets for “1985” are a mere $20 and are available by calling the box office at 866-811-4111 or online at www.thefactorytheater.com
The performance schedule is Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
( no show on 11/27)
The theater is located at  The PROP Thtr  3502 N. Elston Avenue with lots of street parking (unmetered, so far) and a few dining spots in walking distance.
Come on Sports fans ( or theater fans) come on out and support our “storefront theaters” and have a ball!