About the only place Caryn Bark’s Diary of a Skokie Girl hasn’t played in Chicago is my living room. It opened at the old Footsteps space in September of 1994 and ran for six sold-out weeks before moving to Centre East for seven months and Apple Tree Theatre for five–with a time-out for one night at the Jewish Community Center in Buffalo Grove. It’s been at the Royal George’s intimate Center Gallery space for about six weeks now, and has an open run for the new year. Why the popularity? Well, Bark transforms a stand-up comedy routine into an irreverent, hilarious, and deeply moving portrait of Jewish family life a generation ago. Back in the days before central air sealed everyone inside their homes, she tells us, families actually got to know one another across front porches on hot summer evenings. She lets us get to know her family, creating portraits so honest and detailed that even the stereotypical Jewish mother puttering about in housecoat and architectonic bouffant becomes a loving cultural archetype. Though Bark loses the thread of her piece in the final 20 minutes, moving away from childhood memories to more general material about married life, her concluding image gives the entire evening a deep poignancy. Royal George Theatre Center Gallery, 1641 N. Halsted, 988-9000. Open run starting January 10: Wednesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $21.50.

–Justin Hayford

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.