What with President Clinton finishing up his last months in office, Chicago City Limits' current comedy line-up, Subpoenas Envy, is starting to sound a little nostalgic, making this the perfect time for a new array of improvisations and sketches from the Off-Broadway company. As it happens, a touch of its own nostalgia will grace the troupe's next show, Chicago City Limits Turns 20: Now And Forever...And We Mean It.
CCL's latest installment, officially premiering June 8, won't be a look back at the company's last two decades, however. Instead, they'll target -- as ever -- current events, such as the Elian Gonzales battle (done as a musical) and the resurgence of TV game shows. A mix of audience suggested improv and pre-written sketches, Now And Forever features Joe DeGise II, Carl Kissin and "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" frequent cast-member Denny Siegel; all are holdovers from Subpoenas Envy. Joining them is Victor Varnado, who bills himself as "the Albino comic" and who will miss a couple of performances because he has a featured role in the upcoming Eddie Murphy film, "Pluto Nash." Filling in for Varnado on those nights will be various members of CCL's national touring company.
Longtime CCL pianist Frank Spitznagle will accompany the troupe. Executive producer Paul Zuckerman directs.
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 Off Broadway (1980) 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, Let Loose the Dogs of Improv and @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy. For tickets and information at the Chicago City Limits Theatre, 1105 First Ave. (60th St.) call (212) 888-LAFF.
-- By David Lefkowitz