Think “The Bad News Bears” using English blokes and rugby instead of baseball to say a little something about the will to succeed and you get an idea of “Up N’ Under, ” playwright John Godber’s 23-year-old British comedy making its Chicago premiere as Circle Theatre’s twenty-third-season opener. This ingratiating puppy dog of a thin play, that would probably be best appreciated as a raucous “Rocky Horror” midnight show instead of as straight play, boats juvenile lines like “Rugby is a game played by men with odd-shaped balls” as well as cheeky and Anglophilic exchanges such as: “I’m about as fit as D.H. Lawrence.” “I thought he was dead.” “That’s what I mean.” So if that sounds like your cup of tea then by all means go. You’ll have a great time with director Rob Chambers’ amiable cast, a motley crew of loveable losers including the “is he gay or just English?” persnickety school teacher, the tough-on-the-outside-sweet-on-the-inside blue-collar butcher, the female sports instructor who’s going to whip these chauvinistic pigs into shape (and teach them something about women along the way) and the down-and-out former sports stud who’s going to lead them all to victory. Is it any surprise that the script not only makes constant references to the first three “Rocky” movies—which shows you how old “Up N’ Under” actually is—but also underscores much of its action using that film’s iconic musical theme (“Gonna Fly Now”)? The final highlight is an imaginatively staged and hilariously mimed ten-minute rugby game, a ball-breaking choreographed ballet if ever there was one in which the company of six enact the entire match and simultaneously play both teams using a bunch of lighting and costume tricks. Fun stuff, but not enough to make up for the rest of a thin play or justify a trek out to Forest Park. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At Circle Theatre, 7300 West Madison, Forest Park, (708)771-0700. This production is now closed.