Curious Theatre Branch sends audiences to the outermost orbit of the Chicago fringe yet again with its 24th annual Rhinofest. Convening at Prop Thtr, the monthlong event offers 32 shows by new and established experimentalists. Here are some highlights:
Curious previews some of this year's entries at an opening gala, Full Moon Vaudeville (Sat 1/12, 8 PM); then the festivities kick off in earnest starting January 18. Opening-night attractions include The Carter Family Family Show (1/18-2/15: Fri 7 PM)—the Neo-Futurists' three-part portrait of a country-music dynasty—and a double bill from Sweetback Productions, pairing R.J. Tsarov's dark Mantuary with Cornell Woolrich's "whizbang" Hot Water (1/18-2/15: Fri 7 PM).
The next day, ten-year-old Curious family scion Lena Luna Magnus Brün stars in a medley of morbid fairy tales called Lizzie Borden Is Smashing (1/19-2/2: Sat 2 PM)—and family founders Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly unite for an onstage audit of their volatile, quarter-century collaboration in All the Ways to Hidey Hole: Madras Parables (1/19-2/16: Sat 7 PM).
A researcher looks for a general pattern but finds the uncategorizable in Paul William Brennan's Daughter (1/20-2/17: Sun 5 PM). Brain Surgeon Theater presents a pair of mini-rock musicals, Flight of the Blue Lizard and Just an Ordinary Day (1/21-2/11: Mon 7 PM), conceived by kids and performed by pros. Paul Carr's Empire (1/24-2/14: Thu 9 PM) concerns a con artist and his dupe caught in the Pacific Ocean's Texas-size Trash Vortex (a real thing, by the way). Written by Clint Sheffer, Bruised Orange Theater Company's The Bugaboo Room (1/24-2/14: Thu 9 PM) follows a sheltered pair of mortician's kids who negotiate life with the help of dead souls. In Ten to One, Kelly Ann Corcoran takes on ten short plays by such Chicago fringe stalwarts as Diana Slickman, Jeff Dorchen, David Isaacson, and Greg Allen (2/9-2/10: Sat 9 PM and Sun 7 PM). Offered in a staged reading, Barrie Cole's work-in-progress Clumsy Sublime (2/10-2/17: Sun 3 PM) draws together a teenage girl, a 50-year-old gay man, and two figures from an Edward Hopper painting. And RhinoFest closes with The Soul Collector (2/16-2/17: Sat 9 PM and Sun 7 PM), an "offensively comedic evangelical rock musical" set during Armageddon.