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BLEACHER BUMS, Royal George Theatre Center. This update of the definitive Windy City ensemble comedy omits none of the original's underdog sympathies, though a new line--"Don't touch the ball!"--is somewhat bitter. Of course most Cubs fans today appear to be white-collar and/or suburbanite season ticket holders slumming it rather than the lovable losers and compulsive bettors of this work, first performed at the old Organic by Dennis Paoli, Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, and others.

The play shows how team loyalty feeds on friendship. The blind guy who follows the game on his radio but feels it in his bones, the blond sun worshipper, the husband-and-wife chronic gamblers, the klutzy slob, and the hyperkinetic cheerleader kid are a family by default. Marvin, the sole outsider, has cut himself off by betting against the Cubs and, worse, confusing his wagers with the game. He spits out a curse: "The Cubs are having a bad forever."

Director Jeff Lee's ensemble is as solid as Stuart Gordon's fondly recalled original cast. Gary Sandy as the king of the bleachers exudes a survivor's wisdom as he protects nerdy Richie (poignantly dependent Stephen Rose) from an alliance with the villainous Marvin (coldly cynical Michael Andrew Gorman). Today's confines may be less friendly to blue-collar true believers, but Bleacher Bums remains as fresh as the ballpark's vines and grounds.

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