When the Chicago City Limits improvisational troupe started its Off-Broadway run in 1980, people listened to music on twirly things called "phonographs," made phone calls but did not have to push the pound sign for more options, and would have defined the term "web address," as a spider's house. Seventeen years later, consumers are opening CD's and asking "what's DAT?;" they're checking voice mail from pocket cell phones, and they're staring at this story on their internet-linked home computer and wondering when the writer will come to his point.
Well, like modern technology, comedy has to move with, and reflect on, the times. Hence the title of CCL's latest show, @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy. Through sketches and improvisations, the comedy troupe is skewering life in the techno age, including long-distance phone card wars, cloning and obscenity on the internet, as well as zinging an array of political targets. Under the gun are Swiss banks, cigarette companies and White House fund-raising strategies.
The current cast members of CCL (who write their own material) includes John Cameron Telfer, Carl Kissin, Andrew Daly and Denny Siegel, with a big assist from musical director Frank Spitznagel on the piano. The quintet were also in the company's previous show, Right To Laugh Party.
The troupe was formed in Chicago in 1977 by George Todisco and other performers in workshop at Chicago's legendary Second City. Todisco, who died in 1981, served as artistic director and producer for the troupe during its early years. After moving to Manhattan a year later, the group began appearing in nightspots and comedy clubs, eventually moving to the Jan Hus Playhouse and, currently, their own theatre (on First Ave. and 61st St. in New York). For 15 years and counting the troupe has also been offering workshops in improvisational theatre for both beginners and seasoned performers.
Previous Chicago City Limits titles have included: CCL With Clam Sauce; He She And It; X The Roman Numeral; Scandals Of `89; Saddam You're Rockin' The Boat; The Official Comedy Team Of The 1992 Olympics; Lame Duck Soup and Let Loose The Dogs Of Improv. Founding CCL member Paul Zuckerman directs @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy, has no official opening date or closing date; it began performances April 2 and will run until the troupe hasve enough material for its next edition -- or until computers take over.
For tickets ($20) and information call (212) 888-LAFF.
--By David Lefkowitz