Boat heads have a real live U.S. Navy frigate to tour on Navy Pier. The Estocin (named after onetime captain Michael John Estocin) is a 455-foot, 200-sailor vessel whose charter is to provide "agile and highly mobile assistance" to aircraft carriers and such. The tours will take you through the weapons systems, bridge, and helicopter hangar; they run continuously from 1 to about 7 daily through Tuesday on the south side of Navy Pier, Illinois and the lake. They're free. Call 708-657-2178 for details.
The Curious Theatre Branch's latest outrage is called And God Said to Abraham. The play, written by visiting director Scott Turner of Theatre of the Reconstruction, recasts the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac into what sounds like an Appalachian gothic. It stars Curious stalwarts Beau O'Reilly, Jenny Magnus, and Colm O'Reilly along with Reconstruction ringers Paul Tamney and James Thoreson; it opens tonight at the theater, 1836 W. North, at 8. It's $7 or whatever you want. Call 276-1147 for details.
From its immortal opening, "Fugue for Tinhorns" ("I got the horse right here . . ."), to its Damon Runyon-inspired dialogue to some rather cockeyed takes on the battle between the sexes, composer Frank Loesser and playwright Abe Burrows's Guys and Dolls illustrates much of what's great and some of what's bad in the classic American musical. But a rambunctious touring production, in residence at the Shubert Theatre through Sunday, makes the most of this 44-year-old perennial. Its final shows are tonight at 8, tomorrow at 2 and 7:30, and Sunday at 3. Tix are $27 to $57. The Shubert's at 22 W. Monroe. Call 902-1500.
Columbia grad student Keith Patrick DeWeese's master's thesis is a "mixed-means moving picture installation" called Lumen Sex Death Pyx. Inspired, he says, by the works of filmmakers Louis Feuillade and Serge Paradjanov, writer Georges Bataille, and actress Musidora, the piece is an installation anchored by a series of films shot by DeWeese that are "juxtaposed to form uneasy unions of love and hate, mortality and immortality, and creation and destruction." The show's up tonight and tomorrow, from 9 to 11 PM, on the third floor of 1344 W. Greenleaf. It's free. Call 743-2925 for details.
When the answer is hundreds of thousands of underdressed people experiencing gastric distress inflicted by scores of Chicago eateries under a sweltering sun, the question can only be "What is Taste of Chicago?" The eight-day food fest runs today through next Sunday, 11 to 9 (though it closes at 8 PM the final evening). The entertainment includes, most notably, fireworks Sunday night after a Grant Park Symphony Orchestra concert in the Petrillo Music Shell; the Lemonheads, Squeeze, and Poi Dog Pondering playing at the annual WXRT free concert 3 PM Monday; and headliners Barry White Tuesday night, the Band Wednesday, and Santana Friday. It's all free save for the food, in Grant Park at Michigan and Congress. Call 744-3370 for more.
A signed portrait of Garfield, art from "Dennis the Menace," and underground work from the likes of Skip Williamson are the high points of a comic auction to benefit Literacy Chicago. The 19th annual Art You Can Read auction runs from 6 to 8 tonight and 2 to 10 PM tomorrow as part of the ongoing Chicago Comicon at the Rosemont Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road. It's free. Call 236-0341 for more.
The Def Poetry Jam is a self-conscious attempt to bring together "culturally positive black poetry" from the south side. Your host is Nafaankh Ausar, known for his readings under the name SAMM. The show, in an open run Sunday nights at the End of the Rainbow Club, 3126 E. 79th, includes an open mike from 6 PM to 2 AM. There's also music from an African drum corps and a "cultural harvest diaspora marketplace" with food for sale. It's free, save for a two-drink minimum. Call 374-4500.
The Chicago Historical Society marks the holiday with a morning's worth of Fourth of July family activities in the park outside their building. From 10:15 to noon you can watch the Chicago Pops Concert Band, see a costume parade, and hear orations on the theme "What It Means to Be an American" from some recently naturalized citizens. Things wind up with the firing of some Brown Bess muskets. Afterward, you can visit the museum, at Clark and North, all for free. Call 642-4600 for details.
As the masses stuff their faces at Taste of Chicago this week, the Chicago Christian Industrial League will try to make today's holiday a little less routinely depressing for a few of the homeless and hungry. The 7th annual Alternative Taste of Chicago provides eats and entertainment for about 2,000. It runs from 11 AM to 2:30 PM; entertainment includes blues from the Keith Scott Band, gospel from Reginald McCracken & the True Voices of Christ Ensemble. Special guest Bertrice Berry will lead a rendition of the national anthem as well. It all takes place in the league's parking lot, on the southwest corner of Monroe and Halsted. They're looking for volunteers, too. Call 714-7800 for more.
The first major exhibit of the work of Mexican sculptor Juan Soriano is in town through September 4. Soriano began working in Mexico City in the 1940s, palling around with a diverse group of artists and writers including Octavio Paz and Diego Rivera. A set and costume designer by trade, he switched to sculpture and soon gained worldwide renown. The exhibit, Juan Soriano Sculptures, comprises 24 sculptures and two accompanying sets of photographs: one documenting Soriano's artistic processes, the other, "Through the Lens of Eleven Photographers," his life. It's at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th; hours are Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 5; it's free. Call 738-1503.
The Funky Wordsmyths--Brother Quraysh Ali, Keith M. Kelley, Yusef N'Dour, and Theodore Witcher III--are "brash, unapologetic truth tellers who stimulate the mind with word and the body with music," according to their own PR. The words are rap, poetry, monologue, and myth; the music is jazz, hip hop, reggae, blues, and funk. They perform Wednesdays in July at the HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee, at 10 PM. Cover is $5. Call 235-2334 for details.
Three Great Spaces for Three of Chicago's Tallest Buildings features representatives of the architectural firms that designed the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Center, and the Amoco Building showing slides and discussing the design challenges each had in recasting the buildings' ground-level open spaces. It starts at noon in the east meeting room on the fifth floor of the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free, and you're welcome to bring lunch. Call Friends of Downtown at 726-4031 for info and reservations.
The Harold Washington Library's summer reading program has a rain-forest theme this year; to accompany it, they're bringing in some reps from Animal Kingdom, the exotic critter supply organization, to show off their charges, including a snake, a monkey, and some birds. Kids six to ten can hear about the animals, pet 'em, and ask questions at the event, which starts at 1 PM today. The library would like you to make reservations at 747-4200. Meanwhile, the reading program goes on from 1 to 4 daily; kids sign up to read books, write reports, and earn points toward prizes. The Thomas Hughes Children's Library is on the second floor at 400 S. State. It's all free.
A new theater company, Trap Door Productions, says it's "seeking to bring to light the absurdities of living today." The group, formerly a European touring company, has sat itself down in Chicago; its first production is Stanislaw Witkiewicz's 1923 The Madman and the Nun. The show opens tonight at 8 and continues with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 7, and an additional late show Saturday at 11, through August 21. Trap Door is at 1655 W. Cortland; tickets are $20 for tonight and tomorrow's benefits; all other shows are $10, $6 for students and seniors. Call 384-0494.