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Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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The Curious Theatre Branch's 15th annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago's fringe runs through 11/20 at the Curious Theatre Branch, 7001 N. Glenwood. Admission is $12 or "pay what you can"; for information and reservations, call 773-274-6660.

Following is the schedule through 10/11; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY 8

Cant and White Suit Science

It's not easy to negotiate the subject of motherhood--to chart a course between the Scylla of sentimentality and the Charybdis of gleeful attack. Veteran solo artist Jenny Magnus makes the attempt in Cant, a 45-minute monologue (with songs). She deals with the subject by portraying various characters: good mothers, bad mothers, a self-absorbed young father, the hard-bitten mother of a mother, and a lactation consultant/nurse's assistant. Magnus embodies her characters brilliantly, and her newness as a mother gives this piece its freshness, its emotion, its honesty, and--for better or worse--its indirection. (LM) Writer-director Shawn Reddy's comedy White Suit Science--by turns satiric, sarcastic, surreal, and painfully sincere--begins as a discussion of Mark Twain, but turns into a fascinating postmodern analysis of whiteness and the ongoing whitewashing of history. (JHe) 7 PM

NA Dangerous Ornithology | James Owens's treatise on the threat to personal freedoms posed by an autocratic government can be frustrating. The playwright's intent seems to be to push us headfirst into a hyperparanoid reality and force us to grapple with a narrative that needs too much unpacking to be savored. The resourceful ensemble renders a few moments indelible: an existential discussion of life's oppositions that takes place in the engine room of a locomotive becomes a profoundly strange vaudeville routine involving teacups. But the show's bracketing devices--a pair of academics, a study of the flight patterns of birds, a revenge plot--remain mysterious while the elliptical middle is no different from the train ride it features: its origin and destination are one and the same. --Nick Green 9 PM

SATURDAY 9

Hit Me Like a Flower | As Beau O'Reilly's new play opens, it's raining onstage--huge sprinkling cans suspended from the ceiling inundate a cluster of umbrella-clutching citizens. One of them, a teenager listening to Lou Reed's "Vicious" (the source of the play's misquoted title) on her Walkman, collides with a bus. Later, in a honky-tonk bar, a web of connections develops. A forest ranger once assaulted by someone wearing a bear mask meets a runaway wife. Her therapist sister's clients include the ursine thug as well as a cheerful bag lady and a disabled novelist. After two hours, these and other people unite in a--well, thunderous climax. If the screwball plot sometimes seems like a Harold run amok, clever characterizations--notably Teresa Weed's literary sage and Bridget O'Reilly's visionary vagrant--pique our curiosity throughout. --Mary Shen Barnidge 7 PM

The Authentics

Paula Gilovich penned and codirected this empty, annoyingly mannered dark comedy about an airplane crash survivor. The acting is far better than the script, a shaggy-dog story that involves one stereotyped character after another. (LM) 9:30 PM

SUNDAY 10

16 Students

This showcase of apprentice work features "stories about learning or teaching or failing to learn. Or failing to teach." 7 PM

MONDAY 11

Hit Me Like a Flower

See listing for Sat 10/9. 7 PM

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