This ambitious 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; in addition to the Curious folks, participating artists this year include John Starrs, Julie Caffey, Michael K. Meyers, Michael Martin, and many other ensembles and soloists. Taking its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhinocerontic" (it means real big), the 13th annual Rhino Fest runs through October 13. Performances take place at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, and at Prop Thtr, 4225 N. Lincoln. Admission is $10 or "pay what you can"; for information and reservations, call 773-327-6666.
Following is the schedule for September 12 through 19; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
This one-woman play, written by Teresa Weed and performed by Lisa Wagner, examines the experiences of dying patients and their caregivers. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
Playwright-actor Karine Koret based this one-woman play on interviews with her Polish grandfather, who escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
"In KellyAnn Corcoran's witty homage to Waiting for Godot, two women in white satin gloves (Corcoran and Elaine Ellis) are driving somewhere. We don't know where they came from or where they're going; we don't know who they are or what their relationship is. Perhaps one is a mother; perhaps one is a murderess. What we do know is that they share a long history but can't communicate what they're really thinking or feeling. Instead they bicker about semantics and the meaning of dreams, trapped in the car out of a sense of obligation--but we're not sure to what. . . . Corcoran manages to make the conversation funny, character revealing, slightly tragic, and intellectually intriguing. . . . The underlying themes are a little murky: is this about (mis)communication between women, the entrapment of middle-class women in the cage of children and marriage, or something else? . . . Corcoran's vivid imagery and Gregory Werstler's fast-paced staging keep the play rolling even when the characters are stuck in traffic," says Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
Scott Vehill directs Paul Espel's play about two men trying to save the small town they ended up in by mistake. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
The Very Long Kiss
Go Cougars! Theater Company presents Joe Meno's play about a widower's second chance at love. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.
One Two Three Four Five
"Two actors play four roles involving the invisible crossing of backwards plots," says the press release for this piece by Brian Torrey Scott. Prop Thtr, 9 PM.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
The Curious Theatre Branch performs a quartet of stories by Bryn Magnus under Ron Bieganski's direction. "Magnus's writing explodes with adventurous wordplay and riveting imagery," said Reader critic Justin Hayford when he reviewed these pieces as part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's "Love & Sin: A Solo Experience" earlier this year. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
Buster Keaton's Stroll and The Penny Jar
This double bill of puppet shows opens with performer-designer Blair Thomas's adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca's surrealist exercise, in which the silent-film comedian kills his children. Curt Columbus directs. The Penny Jar, created and directed by Shoshanna Utchenik, concerns an old woman and a young girl consumed by a desperate hunger. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
Truck in Pieces
"Notwithstanding its central character's mantra--'I'm not going anywhere; where'm I gonna go?'--Beau O'Reilly's new play tells the story of a journey. O'Reilly's Bloom, like Joyce's before him, spends a long day traveling on the fringes of the urban landscape as he struggles to square his memories with the present. And though every detail resonates with Ulysses, the play also stands on its own as a character study of 'Truck' Bloom, a never-was boxer in midcentury Chicago. Between efforts to reconcile with his ex-wife, bail out his son, and protect some puppies, this mensch masquerading as a thug (O'Reilly himself in a perfect performance that earns sympathy without ever begging for it) relives encounters with his father, his 'jag-off' brother, and Joey Buzz, a hero of his youth. These three, and many others, are played by the spectacular Guy Massey, whose ability to create a whole new character out of a slight shift in stance makes costume changes almost superfluous. Likewise, he gives boxing such a homoerotic charge that the play's explicitly gay encounter seems unnecessary. Despite a few such wrong turns, Truck in Pieces portrays the search for redemption with great warmth and depth," said Reader critic Kelly Kleiman of this Curious Theatre Branch production during its run earlier this year. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.
"Julie Caffey's Underwater Football uses the biblical story of Jonah and the whale as a metaphor for her father's fall from grace, which she and her brother must confront after their parents' divorce. But every minute Caffey spends with her face submerged in a bowl of water or dallying with the multimedia elements of her piece obscures her dark sense of humor," said Reader critic Nick Green when he reviewed this piece as part of Tellin' Tales Theatre's "Sibling Revelry" earlier this year. Susan Nussbaum directs. Prop Thtr, 9 PM.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
I Can't Remember Any Kids' Names on That Trip to Go Drinking in Lake Geneva, Rawkus Down, and Super-Learning With George
This triple bill begins with a play by John Starrs about high school. Johnny Mars's Rawkus Down is described in festival publicity materials as "a tale about sleaze, greed, and a few good tunes," while Super-Learning With George, written and performed by Robin Cline and presented by Theater of the Catbird, imagines a books-on-tape class in which former heavyweight champion George Foreman urges us to "learn big." Lunar Cabaret, 3 PM.
Interviewing the Dead, a Fictional Autobiography
Veteran performance artist Michael K. Meyers presents this tale of a man seeking communion with his dead father. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
Buster Keaton's Stroll and The Penny Jar
See listing for Saturday, September 14. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
The Hermit Theater presents writer-director Idris Goodwin's play about two men whose longtime friendship is altered when one seeks to be more like the other. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
The Mindtick and Midwestern Love Song
The Mindtick, written by Nicole Kupper and directed by Jennifer Huffman, explores the world of a nuclear family. Midwestern Love Song, an adaptation of a poem by Jimmie Cumbie, is directed by Pauline Fatyga. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
New Antarctica, A Babel Fish for Charlie Brown's Mom, and Tales From the Crib
The first piece on this triple bill, written and directed by Dan Telfer, involves a man fighting his gregarious alter ego. "Telfer's funny, poignant New Antarctica explores daydreams as self-imposed exile," said Reader critic Kerry Reid when she reviewed the show as part of Flush Puppy Productions' "Night Visions" last year. Rory Jobst's A Babel Fish for Charlie Brown's Mom concerns a 1970s video game pioneer; Tales From the Crib, by Laurel Haines, examines the darker side of family life. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
A history professor returns to the small western hometown she abandoned after high school in Heidi Broadhead's play. Ned O'Reilly directs. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
See listing for Thursday, September 12. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stephanie Howard.