Theater Oobleck has a habit of tackling weighty subjects: corporate politics, capitalism, the Iraq war, Faust, Freud, fractal geometry. But Oobleck cofounders Jeff Dorchen and David Isaacson spend an evening just playing during the freewheeling Rhinoceros Theater Festival. Their fully improvised "failed talk show" is called "On the Surface"--which is where skittish, know-nothing host Marty Grossbeck (Isaacson) tries to keep his interviews. He's largely successful thanks to the series of guests Dorchen plays, none of whom seem particularly interested in talking about anything, all of whom get up and leave at random moments. The plot-free, dramatically static Medicine Show is partly a spoof of long-form improv. But it's also a delightful 90-minute platform for two creative minds waxing ridiculous. On the night I attended, Grossbeck's guests included a French scientist who learned to grow herbs in the arctic while searching for Marconi's long-forgotten undersea telephone cable (connecting nothing to nothing), an "excellent typist" named Garden Variety Jones who explains how e-mail miscommunications led playwright Israel Horovitz to shoot Vladimir Horowitz dead in the middle of a piano concerto, and a "heliocopter pilot" who discovered the "lake of all e-mail juice" while delivering a message from the dead in the form of a block of Havarti cheese. The only guests who return week to week are Jewboy Cain, Dorchen's Orthodox socialist folksinger alter ego, and Dorchen himself, reading selections from his Internet magazine, Moment of Truth. While Medicine Show is self-consciously superficial, Dorchen and Isaacson work overtime to interweave their improvisatory threads, ingeniously packing each scene with references to every other scene. The resulting fanciful network of surrealism is intricate enough to provide a sense of wholeness. Curious Theatre Branch, 7001 N. Glenwood, 773-274-6660. Through September 30: Mondays-Tuesdays, 7 PM. $12 or "pay what you can."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Davin Auble.