Everyone talks at one time or another about bolting for parts unknown. George Savino actually did it, leaving a secure job at the Reader for a three-year sojourn in sunny Italy. What did he bring back for us? His monologue After Italy, created under the watchful eye of Second City main-stage performer Stephnie Weir. The show recently moved to prime time at Live Bait after a couple of months at the Playground, where it thwarted any expectations of a post-Spalding Gray travelogue: Savino has no great revelations about his journey and falls in with no excessively eccentric people--he doesn't even stumble into any exotic sexual encounters (unless you count that blissful week of lunch breaks with the dishy construction worker). Still, Savino fashions from his memories a series of tight, witty vignettes, capturing the experiences of a kind of innocent, kind of sour, cynical, and opinionated 40-year-old abroad. We see him coping with sloppy roommates in Florence, with loneliness in the unfriendly provincial village of Santa Marinella, with the ten thousand tiny frustrations that beset those living in an unfamiliar culture. We also see him growing in dozens of small ways, gaining confidence and casting off the prejudices that prevent him from fully enjoying his life. What makes Savino particularly fine as a storyteller is that we feel we're growing with him, savoring every memory and yearning as he yearns for the Italy that still burns in his memory. I left After Italy wanting to hop the first flight to Florence so that I too could experience Savino's flawed paradise, a rich, varied, marvelous world of pasta and olive oil, fresh vegetables and holy water, fine wine, fine friends, and finer lovers. Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 773-871-1212. Through July 3: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $10. --Jack Helbig
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzanne Plunkett.