Easy travel to other cultures. Never mind the delays at O'Hare--eight foreign countries will come to you in the course of this month-long festival, now in its third week. Representing the world: Comediants, from Spain; Pat Van Hemelrijck, from Belgium; Gate Theatre Dublin, from Ireland; the English Shakespeare Company, from England; Compagnie Patrice Bigel/La Rumeur, from France; Carbone 14, from Canada; the State Theatre of Lithuania, from the USSR; and the Junction Avenue and Market theater companies, two integrated troupes from South Africa. [Note: the Comediants, Gate Theatre, and Carbone 14 shows have already closed.] Representing Chicago: productions by four Equity theaters, including A Flea in Her Ear at the Goodman Theatre; A Whistle in the Dark at the Body Politic Theatre; Have You Seen Zandile? at the Chicago Theatre Company; and Playboy of the West Indies at the Court Theatre. On top of all that, there will be a "special added attraction" from somewhere in between: a mounting of The Knee Plays by Robert Wilson and David Byrne. See separate listings in the Reader's Guide to Theater for information an local productions; imported productions appear below in the order in which they open. English Shakespeare productions can be seen at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress); Junction/Market, and Lithuanian productions at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted); Patrice Bigel/La Rumeur at the UIC Theatre (1040 W. Harrison); Pat Van Hemelrijck at the Victory Gardens Theater (2257 N. Lincoln); The Knee Plays at the Civic Theatre (20 N. Wacker). Most openings and certain other performances are sold out. Call 644-3378 for information.
THE WARS OF THE ROSES Practically a festival unto itself. The English Shakespeare Company took seven of Shakespeare's history plays and assembled them into a grand epic, encompassing a period of 100 years and the reigns of five kings. Stick around long enough and you'll see three Henrys and two Richards--not to mention one fat Falstaff--duke it out for control of a kingdom. Michael Bogdanov directs the plays, which are offered here in both repertory and marathon formats. The works included are: Richard II; Henry IV, parts one and two; Henry V; Henry VI, parts two and three; and Richard III. At the Auditorium Theatre, through May 28. Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 AM, 3 PM, and 7:30 PM. Student matinee Thursday, May 19 (H.IV, part one), 1 PM. No evening performance May 12 and 17. On Thursday, May 26 only, you can see H.IV, part one, at 2 PM, and H.IV, part two, at 7:30 PM. The repertory schedule follows. Richard II: May 13, 18, and 25. Henry IV, Part One: May 14 (10:30 AM), 24, and 26 (2 PM). Henry IV, Part Two: May 14 (3 PM), 19, and 26 (7:30 PM). Henry V: May 14 (7:30 PM), 20, and 27. Henry VI, Part Two: May 15, 21, and 28 (all at 10:30 AM). Henry VI, Part Three: May 15, 21, and 28 (all at 3 PM). Richard III: May 15, 21, 22, and 28 (all at 7:30 PM). $23-$33; for three plays: $75-$87; for all seven: $146-$181.
TOUT SUIT A "Flemish Buster Keaton," Pat Van Hemelrijck offers his "performance art 'concerto' for discarded appliances." At the Victory Gardens Theater, through May 15. Tuesday-Friday, 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 3 and 7:30 PM. $18-$20. The Thursday, May 12, performance will be a benefit for Chicago's Child's Play Touring Theatre. Tickets are $50 and include a reception. Call 235-8911 for benefit information.
SOPHIATOWN Let it never be forgot that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as . . . Sophiatown. Malcolm Purkey directs members of South Africa's Junction Avenue and Market theater companies in this musical about an integrated Johannesburg community that was ultimately demolished. At the Royal-George Theatre, through May 22. Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 6 and 9 PM; Sunday, 3 and 7:30 PM. Student matinee Wednesday, May 18 only, noon. No 7:30 PM performance on Sunday, May 22. $20-$22.
CIRCUITS CLANDESTINS "The rage and desperation of actors destroyed by their profession." Performed in a "movement theater" style that reputedly owes much to dance, this is a vision of Hollywood created by France's Compagnie Patrice Bigel/La Rumeur. Patrice Bigel directs. At the UIC Theatre, May 16 through 22. Monday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; matinee Saturday and Sunday, 3 PM. $18-$20.
THE KNEE PLAYS This collaboration between theatrical innovator Robert Wilson and Talking Head David Byrne was originally meant to be seen as part of Wilson's vast the CIVIL WarS, which was scotched--tragically--by the powers that were at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. Here's a small taste of what might have been. At the Civic Theatre, May 17 through 29. Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 6 and 9 PM; Sunday, 3 and 7:30 PM. $20-$28.
UNCLE VANYA and PIROSMANI, PIROSMANI Two from the State Theatre of Lithuania. The first, of course, is Chekhov's drama about love and ecology. The second, written by V. Korastylev, recounts the life and persecutions of Georgian folk artist Nico Pirosmanashvili. Eimuntas Nekrosius directs both plays. At the Royal-George Theatre, May 24 through 29. Tuesday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; matinee Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 3 PM. Vanya: May 24-26; Pirosmani: May 27-29. $25-$28.