Eighteen theater companies are presented in six different programs of two to four plays each, organized along loose thematic lines by producer Doug Bragan and associate producer Judith Easton. That's two more companies and two more programs than last year, when Bragan first stepped in to revive this non-Equity showcase founded and then discontinued by the League of Chicago Theatres. At the Theatre Building, through June 2. Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 PM, Saturdays, 6:30 and 9:15 PM, Sundays, 3 PM. See listings below for schedule. Each program $12 in advance, $15 at the door; single plays $5 in advance, $8 at the door. The schedule is as follows:
"ISN'T IT ROMANTIC!": PARENTHESES, SEX LIVES OF SUPERHEROES, and FORECAST First: Confrontation turns to courtship when an angry father visits his child's first-grade teacher, Bailiwick Repertory presents Bill Wine's comedy. Second: Stephen Gregg's comedy about relationships on and off the comic-book pages is performed by the Griffin Theatre; reviewing its recent run, Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge called the production "original and engaging." Third: A young astronaut encounters a thick-skinned peasant woman, in Elizabeth Wray's play presented by Blind Parrot Productions. Wednesdays, 8 PM.
"QUARTET TRIO WITH A LATIN BEAT": FATTY TISSUE, YEARS AGO, FRAGMENTS FROM THE PERMANENT COLLECTION, and LA PETENERA First: Edwin Sanchez's surrealistic comedy about a woman who does battle with her refrigerator is presented by Theater By Design. Second: The Synergy Theatre Company's Chrysalis Project, which develops new plays, offers Lisa Dillman's script about a woman rummaging through her memories. Third: The meeting and courtship of a young couple in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago is complemented by living images reflecting the paintings around them, in Michael Brayndick's play presented by the Playwrights' Center. Fourth: La Barraca '90 performs La Petenera (see separate listing in regular theater listings). Thursdays, 8 PM.
"SHEER DRAMA": WILD DOGS, DATES WITHOUT CHICKS, and THE SHIRT First: "Two men drink, fight, and seek a common connection," in Mary-Arrchie Theatre's production of Matt Borczon's play. Second: Scott Turner's play about two buddies "who meet for seasonal rituals of drunkenness and strict confidence on affairs of the heart" is offered in its world premiere by Theatre of the Reconstruction. Third: Chicago Actors Project performs Leonard Melfi's drama about an encounter between a southern tourist and an interracial couple. Fridays, 8 PM.
"WAR STORIES, DOG STORY": THE LETTER, NEXT, and DOG STORIES First: Mina Sama No, a theater company devoted to the Asian-American experience, presents the world premiere of Suzy Nakamura and Connie Munoz's drama about a family's reaction to the U.S. government's reparation payments to Japanese-Americans confined in internment camps during World War II. Second: Terrence McNally's Vietnam-era comedy about a middle-aged man's encounter with a sadistic female physician during the man's draft physical is performed by the BDI Theater Company. Third: Phoenix Productions presents Keith Huff's comedy "about dogs who own people." Saturdays, 6:30 PM.
"PRIDE AND PREJUDICE": RED TANGO and COUP First: The Chicago Actors Ensemble presents Tom Yore's pop opera in which the story of Georg Buchner's Woyzeck is reset in South Africa and augmented with a text by Heiner Muller. Second: Jane Martin, the pseudonymous author of Talking With, wrote this comedy about small-town southern racism that's produced by Zebra Crossing. Saturdays, 9:15 PM.
"A MATINEE FOR MUSIC AND LAUGHTER": HIGH FIDELITY, MO' BETTER BLUE VELVET, OR DAVID LYNCH MOB MENTALITY, and BABES IN ARMS, ACT I First: New Tuners presents the first act of Philip Seward's comic opera, a work in progress based on The Rear, Anton Chekhov's comedy about a woman trying to dodge an overattentive man. Second: North Avenue Productions performs an improv-style comedy revue. Third: "Where or When," "My Funny Valentine," and "Johnny One Note" are among the well-known songs in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 1937 musical about a group of young amateur vaudevillians who put on a show. Musical Repertorie Theatre stages George Oppenheimer's adaptation. Sundays, 3 PM.