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Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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The Curious Theatre Branch's ambitious yearly showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago's fringe began as part of the Bucktown Arts Fest. Over the years it's mushroomed from a neighborhood happening to an event of citywide significance--especially now that it's been taken under the wing of the Department of Cultural Affairs as part of a laudable effort to bring an off-off-Loop sensibility to Chicago's downtown theater district.

Taking its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhino-cerontic" (it means real big), the 14th annual Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs through October 26. Performances take place at the Curious Theatre Branch, 7001 N. Glenwood; No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood; and the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Admission is $12 or "pay what you can"; for information and reservations, call 773-274-6660.

Following is the schedule through September 18; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.


The Casual Family

This program features four short plays with music: Airland, by Adam Vine; Aviary, by Nora Jean Lange; and Tuning In to the Power of Active Listening and Understanding Shyness, by Brian Torrey Scott. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM. (Reviewed this week in Section One.)


Sidewalk Etiquette

Idris Goodwin's "humorous ensemble drama," set in a blue-collar neighborhood in a midwestern city, is performed by the Hermit theater group. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM. (Reviewed this week in Section One.)

The Jazzterpiece

Barrie Cole, whose writing is known for its experimental approach to language, penned this "play about jazz, loss, yoga, and the delusions of creativity." Joe Huppert directs. No Exit Cafe, 7:30 PM.

The Wolf Hunt

Matt Wilson's drama, directed by Daniel Taube, concerns an adopted man's attempt to track down his birth family. Curious Theatre Branch, 9 PM. (Reviewed this week in Section One.)

Eric Ziegenhagen

Actor-director Ziegenhagen displays his songwriting talents as he accompanies himself on a four-string guitar. No Exit Cafe, 9:30 PM.


My Name Is Mudd

This Curious Theatre Branch production, written and directed by Shawn Prakash Reddy, takes aim at Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth's murder of Abraham Lincoln. "Questions about historiography undergird . . . Reddy's formulation of the events surrounding . . . Lincoln's assassination. And for many playwrights, the postmodern hall of mirrors created by asking slippery questions about authority and knowledge would be enough. But Reddy, who also directs, clearly wants to tease, entertain, and provoke. . . . Toward that end he's fabricated a two-hour work, played by himself and five other actors, that's both a lecture and a sketch-comedy revue, a historical reenactment and a send-up of reenactments. The resulting show should have been daring and hilarious and intellectually breathtaking. But the night I caught My Name Is Mudd, the comedy often seemed forced, the insights sophomoric, and the writing sloppy and in need of a good edit. These problems might have been the result of uneven performances," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM.

Vato Maldito

This Prop Thtr production about a Latino safecracker is adapted from the memoirs of Johnny "Bubbles" Gallegos by Gallegos's nephews Raoul and Scott Vehill (Scott Vehill codirects with Stefan Brun). No Exit Cafe, 7:30 PM.

With Love in Your Arms and a Knife in Your Heart

Joe Meno's noirish drama finds an American boxer exploring Mexico's underworld. It's presented by the O Theater. "What is it about the impulse to explore ritual processes that makes companies forget drama also has to be interesting? This show--a two-hour acting exercise with no intermission--may have been a blast to rehearse, but it isn't much fun to watch. Performed in an arch, intensely physical, slow-motion style, it seems at times a parody of bad theater. But the actors are way too sincere for that, and the story they're performing--Joe Meno's pulpy one-act about a washed-up boxer--hardly seems deserving of such treatment. In fact Carey Friedman's staging works against Meno's script, which luxuriates in the trashy conventions of B-movie noir: we get to see in excruciating detail every dead cliche in Meno's self-consciously hackneyed plot. There are a number of strong performances, however," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Curious Theatre Branch, 9 PM.


Previously presented at Milwaukee's Hermetic Gallery, this performance event by Dan Sutherland changes at every presentation. No Exit Cafe, 9:30 PM.



The Still Point Theater Collective performs Arab-American poet Melysha Sargis Meraee's playwriting debut--the story of six Palestinian women who immigrate to Chicago. "The issues [Meraee addresses] are mundane but still potentially explosive: at the center of the play is a whispered accusation of adultery. Structured as a series of highly digressive conversations, Meraee's script accentuates the ordinariness of her story. Director Jenny Magnus shows considerable sensitivity to the material. In her production small gestures . . . speak volumes, a quality enhanced by the strong, subtle ensemble. . . . But there's a downside to Meraee's unembellished close-up. Much of the play feels more like a transcript than a theatrical work--some judicious editing would have increased the tale's dramatic power," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Curious Theatre Branch, 3 PM.

With Love in Your Arms and a Knife in Your Heart

See listing for 9 PM Saturday, September 13. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM.

Red Circle Prayers, Trap Door Dream Dogs, and Love Gandhi

See review in this section. No Exit Cafe, 7:30 PM.


Dorchen & Isaacson's Medicine Show

See Critic's Choice. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM.


Cavan P.M. Hallman's poetic theater piece draws on T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and other literary sources. No Exit Cafe, 7:30 PM.


Dorchen & Isaacson's Medicine Show

See Critic's Choice. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM.


The Casual Family

See listing for Thursday, September 11. Curious Theatre Branch, 7 PM.

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