This annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago's fringe, coproduced by Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr, runs through 11/4. This year features two full-length trilogies, "The Madelyn Trilogy" by Beau O'Reilly and the "Danger Face Trilogy" by Idris Goodwin. Admission is $15 or "pay what you can," except where noted. Performances take place at the Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston, and the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, and elsewhere as noted below. An installation by Jamie Rey, Reconciliation, will be up in the Prop's lobby for the course of the festival, along with a display of memorabilia of early off-Loop theater curated by Rick Paul. For information and reservations, call 773-539-7838 or visit rhinofest.com. Following is a schedule of shows opening through 9/6; a complete schedule is available at chicagoreader.com.
Madelyn Dangles the Noose The first part of Beau O'Reilly's "The Madelyn Trilogy" introduces the McGuffin siblings at the funeral of Madelyn Glass, who was married to two of the brothers before committing suicide. O'Reilly has a unique feeling for the weird yet lyrical. The first two acts complement each other, but the third seems largely unnecessary. (JHa) a Through 10/5: Fri 7 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater. Then Fri 10/19 and 10/26, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre. $15; $20 for the full trilogy.
Torch: The Bearer, Where No Wood Is Michael Martin's solo piece is illustrated with "images of post-Katrina New Orleans, home improvement projects, and porn." a Through 9/22: Sat 3 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater.
Danger Face Idris Goodwin's "Danger Face Trilogy" kicks off with this tale of two outlaws storming into a coffeehouse. a Thu 10/11, 9 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater, $15; $20 for the full trilogy.
RThe McGuffins Run the 440 "The Madelyn Trilogy" continues the tale of the McGuffin siblings. This spare, efficient play is nearly perfect. I can't recall a more satisfying two and a half hours I've spent in the theater. (JHa) a Through 10/6: Sat 7 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater. Then Sat 10/20 and 10/27, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre. $15; $20 for the full trilogy.
The Unauthorized "On the Road" The 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's beat classic is marked with this "word jazz celebration" directed by Stefan Brun. a Through 9/30: Sat-Sun 7 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Hitting the Bricks "The Madelyn Trilogy" concludes. The final play veers toward absurdism. I spent three hours wondering which way was up. (JHa) a Through 10/7: Sun 5 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater. Then Sun 10/21 and 10/28, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre. $15; $20 for the full trilogy.
Hollywood at Sunset In this 2002 comedy by Robert Patrick, a gay screenwriter wrestles with his fear of coming out in an industry dominated by closeted queers. Patrick's wry humor is engaging, but the show is too long, and playing a scene on video is distracting in this People's Theater of Chicago/Legacy Project production. (AW) a Through 9/24: Mon 7 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Drive In Mark Young's efficient 35-minute drama, two old flames are reunited during an all-night drive to attend the wedding of mutual friends. Young's graceful dialogue, though at times precious, captures the cadences of interstate ennui and dead-end nostalgia, and attentive modulation of tempo gives this Side Project production an effortless momentum. But the situation isn't intriguing enough or the characters interesting enough, and the ending is predictable. (JHa) a Through 9/24: Mon 7 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
RThe Play About the Squirrel A couple must contend with a squirrel in their attic in Mia McCullough's play, presented by Stage Left Theatre. It becomes clear that McCullough is really writing about an unplanned pregnancy; Maggie Graham's mercurial performance charts the chilling compromises marriage entails. (AW) a Through 9/17: Mon 9 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
Dream a Little Dream Cholley Kuhaneck's hour-long show is utterly at odds with itself, veering from nonsensical puppet skit to a bereft research scientist crouched at the bedside of his comatose wife. Tying things together--sort of--is a "professional telepathic dreamer." It's a befuddling mix, but there's no shortage of captivating oddities in this adventurous WNEP Theater production. (JHa) a Through 9/24: Mon 9 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Selections From Estrogen Fest 07 This program of short pieces includes The Scarlet Ibis by Susan Hahn, The Curse of the Horned Babby by Lisa Dillman, Out of Order by Sarah Gubbins, and The Executive Secretary by Kristy Lockhart. a Through 9/26: Wed 7 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
Une Baye This 70-minute monologue by writer-performer Audre Budrys is based on the letters and journals of Lithuanian actress Une Baye (1897-1961). The show provides some insight into Lithuanian history and this artist, who performed in Paris, London, and Hollywood before being sent to Siberia. But Budrys's heartfelt, nuanced performance doesn't quite manage to breathe life into the corpse of facts. (LM) a Through 9/20: Wed 9 PM, Thu 7 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
Eat Shit In a little under an hour, our four culinary companions whip up a snack while acquainting us with their personal memories (and the sociological implications) of such regional cuisine as squirrel stew, whale steaks, tuna balls, and watermelon-rind pickles. We all eat, and it's easy to love the ebullient recollections and irresistible aromas in this funny show by the Mill. (MSB) a Through 9/27: Thu 7 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Defender A prostitute in criminal court runs into an old boyfriend who's now a lawyer in James Owens's new play. a Through 10/3: Wed 7 PM, Fri 9/14, 9 PM, Prop Thtr.
Who's Afraid of Affirmative Action? Varrick Douglas's spoof of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? involves an African-American student invited to a professor's house and offered a chance at a doctoral program. a Through 9/28: Fri 11 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
We Were the World Brian Torrey Scott directs this collaboratively written play combining structured plots with improv, "fear, comedy, teamwork, and live music." a Through 9/29: Sat 11 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
Tsarovia! This program of short plays by New Orleans playwright R.J. Tsarov is performed by Simone Jubyna and Mike Driscoll. a Through 9/30: Sun 3 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
The Belle of Austin and Promises to Keep: The Poems of Robert F. Kennedy The art of Emily Dickinson and Daniel Johnston are examined in The Belle of Austin, written and performed by Rory Jobst. Also, Halfway House Theater Society presents a fictional account of RFK's "life, loves, crimes, and children." a Through 9/13: Wed-Thu 9 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Danger Face 2: The Slow Burn The outlaws take refuge in an art gallery in this second part of the "Danger Face Trilogy." a Through 9/15: Thu 9 PM, Fri-Sat 10 PM. Then Fri 10/12, 9 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater, $15; $20 for the full trilogy.
Billy: A Man in Progress Wm. Bullion's multimedia solo piece examines the nature of identity. a Tue 9/18 and 9/25, 7 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Bad Action Project Course Matt Test cites Plato, the Russian space program, and fantasy sports in his lecture/performance. a 9/24-10/8: Mon 7 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater.
The Uncertainty Principle: Dances Inspired by the Work of Werner Heisenberg and the Birth of Quantum Physics The title of this piece from the Space/Movement Project pretty much says it all. a Through 9/22: Sat 3 PM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
Ian's Dog and Pony Show Ian Belknap headlines an evening of stand-up comedians, monologuists, and sketch and improv actors, with a different lineup each week. a Through 9/22: Fri-Sat 9 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
NWake Up, Apocalypse (Awake!) Konstantin Treplev is a character in Chekhov's The Seagull: a sweet, troubled young man who gets his adored neighbor, Nina, to star in a backyard production of the Deeply Serious play he's written. The show never comes off, however, and Kostia ultimately commits suicide. Greasy Joan & Co. touts its own play as "the professional premiere" of Kostia's aborted work, but that's stretching the truth. It's more of a tribute in which three actresses--all playing Nina--lament Kostia's passing, explore Chekhovian issues, dance some, and recite passages from The Seagull along with a recipe or two. Directed by Julieanne Ehre, this montage generates some charm--especially when Kathleen Powers has our focus--but is finally less interesting than the concept promises. --Tony Adler a Through 10/7: Sun 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Trash The politics of waste management is the subject of Matt Rieger's play. a Through 10/24: Wed 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
My Pants Are Fire A program of "hyper-vignettes" from the Sansculottes Theater Company. a Through 9/27: Wed-Thu 9 PM. Then Sun 10/7 and 10/14, 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Echo Chamber Tif Bullard's one-woman performance piece centers on her struggle with emetophobia--the fear of vomiting. Dexter Bullard directs. a 9/14-9/22: Fri-Sat 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Rise Like a Penis From the Flames--A Phallic Phoenix Story Monologuist Antonio Sacre touches on five key problem areas--family, finances, faith, friends, and fun--in his exploration of love. a 9/14-9/15: Fri 7 PM, Sat 9 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
A Break With Charity KellyAnn Corcoran's adaptation of Ann Rinaldi's young-adult novel about the Salem witch trials is the premiere production of the Corcoran School of Theater Arts. a 9/15-9/30: Sat-Sun 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Semeneau This "combination of prose and video monologues by various performers" marks Edward Salem's debut performance in theater. a 9/19-9/27: Wed-Thu 9 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
Danger Face 3 Idris Goodwin's trilogy concludes with this third installment. a 9/20-10/6: Thu 9 PM, Fri-Sat 10 PM. Then Sat 10/13, 9 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater.
Flat Danny A dead soldier's family's grieving takes a twist when the army sends them a life-size cardboard cutout of their son and brother in Barrie Cole's new play. a 9/21-9/29: Fri 7 PM, Sat 9 PM. Then Sun 10/7 and 10/14, a 3 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater.
Perfect Kitchen Sherry Antonini's "prepared improvisational performance" about the kitchen's place in a home is accompanied by live music. a Fri 9/21 and 9/28, 9 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
The Boho Dance: Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsburg Beau O'Reilly and John Starrs pay tribute to the poets. a Mon 9/24, 9 PM. Then Mon 10/1 and 10/8, 7 PM. Prop Thtr, south theater.
Black Box--A Play Crash The Billy Goat Experiment Theatre perform their play within a play in the tradition of the Marx Brothers. a Opens Thu 9/27, 7 PM. Through 10/25: Thu 7 PM, no show 10/11, Athenaeum Theatre.
Distance = A Camel Caravan on a Grain of Rice: A Performance Duet in Six Parts Karen Christopher and Mark Jeffery use video images to investigate concepts of distance. a Fri-Sat 9/28-9/29, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Rock and Roll: Impatience The Lucky Pierre performance quartet swagger through every cliched rock 'n' roll posture--a kind of musical clip art--searching in vain for spontaneous, eternal bacchanalia. It's a joyful and confounding evening. (JHa) a Fri-Sat 9/28-9/29, 9 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Mixtape Collision Theatre Company perform their "visual and aural theatrical expression" about the perfect track list. a Opens Wed 10/3, 9 PM. Through 10/25: Wed-Thu 9 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Torvald and I and The Best of 365 Days: 3,000,000,000 Plays Torvald and I, Mark Chrisler's take on Ibsen's A Doll's House, is "the best comedic post-feminist construction that 19th century realism can offer." Also on the bill, Tim Racine seeks to better Suzan-Lori Parks's "365 Days/365 Plays" project by about 10 million times. a 10/3-10/11: Wed 9 PM, Thu 7 PM, Prop Thtr, south theater.
XV-XVI Century Northern Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection 1978 BoyGirlBoyGirl present a quartet of solo pieces inspired by an exhibition catalog of Renaissance drawings. a 10/5-10/13: Fri-Sat 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Girl Go Boom! Two short plays: Ferine, Carey Friedman's update of Lysistrata, and Joe Meno's Don the Army Blue, about a couple of army brats looking for "something resembling love." a 10/5-10/13: Fri-Sat 9 PM, Thu 10/11, 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Railroad Backward Kestutis Nakas's play is about a Chicago man's bizarre journey through frontier Illinois. Nakas creates a playful but puzzling journey that often wanders too far from a discernible path. Yet his handful of well-placed references to Vietnam and Iraq do create a sense of the United States' robust history of ruthless profiteering. (JHa) a Sat 10/6 and 10/13, 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Pretty Good Artist Five contestants strive to create something out of nothing in this "reality performance event." Applicants should e-mail a short paragraph saying why they should be chosen to firstname.lastname@example.org. a Sun 10/14, 10 AM, Prop Thtr, north theater.
(H)ourglass Julie Caffey and Leslie Swieck's performance piece tells the story of a love affair between a theater manager and a church secretary. a Fri-Sat 10/19-10/20, 5:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
The Great Cicada Letdown and Other Natural Disruptions That coyote in Quizno's and other collisions between nature and the city are explored in this series of monologues and songs from the Magpies. a Fri-Sat 10/19-10/20, 9:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Untitled Work in Progress Vicki Walden plans to use video clips and live actors in her piece. a 10/20-10/28: Sat-Sun 3 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
Lady Sings Jenny Magnus and Stephanie Rearick present a musical program. a Fri-Sat 10/26-10/27, 9:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre.
The Big Palaver The festival concludes with an evening of new work by Mickle Maher, Jimmy Carrane, Bryn Magnus, Audrey Niffenegger, Jeff Dorchen, and others. Beau O'Reilly and Jenny Magnus host. a Sun 11/4, 3 PM, School of the Art Institute, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, $20.