DIARY OF A SKOKIE GIRL, Footsteps Theatre Company. Bringing a stand-up routine into a theater is risky. Theater audiences generally can't order drinks, flirt with the waitresses, or even heckle the performers, and in exchange for their good behavior they demand something more than a comedian's act. They demand a piece that's about something.
Caryn Bark, a veteran of the stand-up circuit, is blessed with a comic imagination full of eidetic imagery. A woman in the doctor's office hides her underpants in her purse and later forgets where they are. A middle-aged aunt putters about in a garish housecoat with hose rolled down to her ankles. A car requires four old Jewish women to operate it: one to work the controls, one to study the map, one to read every passing sign aloud, and one to tell everyone else what to do.
Diary of a Skokie Girl, Bark's portrait of her north-suburban adolescence in the mid-60s, is disarmingly poignant considering her repeated lounge-act assurances that her audience is great, and a body mike that makes everything seem lip-synched. Like Chicago comedian Jeff Garlin, Bark has a polished delivery yet achieves a genuine vulnerability onstage: she talks with, not at, her audience. But her charming, well-crafted stories simply stop after an hour and a half, with no meaningful conclusion. Her material shows so much potential it's a shame Bark hasn't stretched beyond the confines of putting together an act.