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Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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This annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago's fringe began as part of the Bucktown Arts Fest; now it's produced by the Curious Theatre Branch. Taking its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhinocerontic" (it means real big), the Rhino Fest, now in its 11th year, features shows by such local notables as Theater for the Age of Gold, the Billy Goat Experiment, Blair Thomas, Antonio Sacre (now based in LA, but returning for the festival), John Musial, Michael K. Meyers, and Theater Oobleck in addition to the Curious folks.

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs through October 14 at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln; additional performances take place through September 27 at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs' Storefront Theater, located in the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph. Admission to all shows is $10 or "pay what you can"; for information and reservations, call 773-327-6666.

Following is the schedule for September 21 through 28, based on information available Monday.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Loser's Alias

The Curious Theatre Branch presents Bryn Magnus's "action play" about a test of wills between a flamboyant wrestling promoter and a do-gooder trying to legitimize the sport by making it tame. The production, a revised version of one of the troupe's early, seminal works of more than a decade ago, features puppets and live music by "mock-rock/grunge band" Family Problem. The original show "was one of . . . Magnus's more confused epics, [but he] has heightened the emotional reality of his main characters and toned down the assaultive energy that overwhelmed his first production," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Carving Wood and Midwest Parking

The first play on this double bill is a comedy by Nicole Kupper about a woman obsessed with Ping-Pong and her relationship with her daughter and the daughter's fiance; the second, presented by Cougar Cougar Productions, is a comedy by writer-director Mike Hansel. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Loser's Alias

See listing for 7 PM Thursday, September 21. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Chameleon With a Stigmata

Former stand-up comic Sue Cargill wrote this dark comedy about a self-effacing woman whose new apartment is inhabited by a human-sized bright red chameleon whose inability to change his colors contrasts with the woman's tendency to blend in with her surroundings. Anna Bahow directs. "For brilliant innovation [this is] the piece to see. [It's] a sharply funny, intelligent, and oddly sweet examination of the difference between accepting suffering and courting it and of the role of friendship in defining that boundary. . . . No shorthand can do Chameleon justice. Its originality deserves the widest possible audience," says Reader critic Kelly Kleiman. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Something Made Up

Monologuist Barrie Cole tries her hand at playwriting with this tale of a woman and a man whose worldviews are altered by a book on ventriloquism and a bottle of oregano respectively. Directed by Cole and Eric Ziegenhagen, the production features Julie Caffey and Doug Stapleton. "Cole [offers] an interesting meditation . . . on a couple's relationship to each other and to reality. . . . Though the production has been well paced and thoughtfully directed, . . . ultimately the play's comedy, insight, and two top-notch performances don't quite come together," says Reader critic Kelly Kleiman. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Loser's Alias

See listing for 7 PM Thursday, September 21. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Chameleon With a Stigmata

See listing for 8 PM Friday, September 22. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Word/River/Rain

David Schein, Dana Block, Tanya White, and Tom Janssen, appearing under the collective name Groupo Morph, seek to synthesize dramatic text, poetry, and vocal music in this performance. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.

Full Moon Vaudeville

The Curious Theatre Branch's eclectic program of performance, dance, and music features Ira Glass, Asimina Chremos, Beau O'Reilly, Michael Greenberg, and others. Storefront Theater, 10 PM.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

Smokers

Michael Martin's portrait of a group of cigarette addicts puffing away on the loading dock of an office building is presented by the Great Beast Theater. Lunar Cabaret, 3 PM.

Chameleon With a Stigmata

See listing for 8 PM Friday, September 22. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Until One Day I Run Out of Teeth and The Secret Thoughts

of Clowns

The American Monster Theater presents two plays by Carey Friedman; the ensemble includes Lance Baker, Michael Stumm, and Kathleen Powers. "In Until One Day I Run Out of Teeth . . . Baker portrays David, an everyman in a bathtub who writes letters to the Congressman after he meets the man's assistant, Mary, one day on the bus--an encounter that quickly turns into David's spiritual rape at the hands of this femme fatale and her terminally ill boss. All this in 20 minutes. Baker illuminates the stage in this faint but potent burp of a work. . . . By contrast, the actors' talents are wasted in The Secret Thoughts of Clowns, a mindlessly enthusiastic script about a man and a woman at odds in a hotel room," says Reader critic Erik Piepenburg. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ian Belknap, in the role of Mephistopheles, hosts a program of monologues about the seven deadly sins. The performance is part of a weekly series in which a rotating ensemble--including Jenny Magnus, Bryn Magnus, Lusia Strus, Susan Messing, Matt Kaye, Rose Abdoo, and others--put their own spins on the sins. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Lily

Karine Koret's one-woman show is based on her grandmother's account of life as a teenager in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. It's presented by the Stillpoint Theater Collective. "Koret intersperses songs and humorous confessions with tales of her grandmother's fear, fatigue, and fight to hold on--and [she] can be captivating retelling and reliving this engaging story. Unfortunately she can also shortchange it by not fully inhabiting the moment," says Reader critic Jenn Goddu. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

Carving Wood and Midwest Parking

See listing for 8 PM Thursday, September 21. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

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