20/20 Hindsight: 20 Years/20 Stories | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

20/20 Hindsight: 20 Years/20 Stories 

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Founded a little more than two decades ago by a handful of off-Loop actors led by Arnold Aprill, City Lit Theater Company first made a name for itself with concert readings of classic and contemporary short stories in places not usually associated with theatrical performances (the Three Arts Club, the Clark House). As its success grew, the company leaped to fully staged productions of its own adaptations: Aprill's version of Lynda Barry's comic memoir The Good Times Are Killing Me remains for me an exemplar of great off-Loop theater. But for my money, few of these grander shows could compare to City Lit's bare-bones readings. For one, the actors seemed to pay more attention to the power of words when the only thing standing between them and the audience was a short story on a music stand. For another, nothing beats the intimacy of performers reading aloud: when it works, they seem to be reading to you and you alone--like daddy all those years ago. Last year, after several seasons of box-office disappointments, it looked as if City Lit might close for good, but somehow the company avoided the ax. Now artistic director Mark Richard and managing director Page Hearn have returned to City Lit's roots, celebrating 20 years of making theater (and incidentally inaugurating their new space) by performing an epic series of concert readings, the best of the past 20 years. The five programs are devoted to coming-of-age, the intricacies and mysteries of love, sports, "bad manners," and African-American writer Toni Cade Bambara. Richard and Hearn are calling the series "20/20 Hindsight," perhaps in recognition of the fact that the company got it right the first time. See listing for details about the programs and schedule. City Lit Theater Company, Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-293-3682. Through April 16. $12-$20.

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