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Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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This annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music runs through 10/31 at the Prop Thtr, 3502-4 N. Elston. Rhino Fest is coordinated by the Curious Theatre Branch and features emerging and established artists from Chicago's fringe, including Theater Oobleck, the Still Point Theatre Collective, Blair Thomas, Hermit Arts, Cin Salach, Michael Martin, the Rasaka Theatre Company, and Ira Glass as well as the Curious and Prop ensembles. Performances take place in Prop's north or south theaters, except where noted otherwise below. Admission for most shows is $15 or "pay what you can"; exceptions are noted below. For information and reservations, call 773-267-6660 (except as noted below) or visit www.rhinofest.com. Following is the schedule through 9/22; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

THURSDAY 15

Racket Sports, Young Children & Late Bloomers Volume 3: The Bunny Pilsbury Suite

This world premiere, penned by Michael S. Duffy Jr. and directed by James Whittington, examines the moral transformation of a wicked seminarian. a North theater, 7 PM.

RN THE MASRAYANA

Presenting a modern-day nightmare in old-timey dress, William C. Kovacsik's story-theater piece, which includes music and dance, recounts the ordeal of an Indian farmer struggling to reclaim his identity after his unscrupulous brother and corrupt officials conspire to have him declared legally dead in order to seize his land. As Mr. Masra's existential crisis unfolds in this joint production by Prop Thtr and the South Asian-oriented Rasaka Theatre Company, his story turns into an impassioned plea for the dignity of all people disenfranchised by the march toward modernity. Anish Jethmalani's sharp production crackles. --Zac Thompson a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25. Reservations at 773-539-7838.

FRIDAY 16

RN THE BOOK OF GRENDEL

In Dan Telfer's reimagining of Beowulf for Theater Oobleck, a church scribe arrives at the monster Grendel's underwater lair several years before Beowulf, and together scribe and beast translate the lost Book of Judas. More than just a facile reversal of the original, with Beowulf as blustering warrior and Grendel as misunderstood misfit, this is a kind of comic-mythic cosmology of evil, exploring questions of time, mortality, and what it means to be God's outcast. Colm O'Reilly, in bathrobe and slippers, is excellent as the title monster, part Caliban, part Kramden. --Zac Thompson a North theater, 7 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/15. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25. Reservations at 773-539-7838.

N INTO HERMIT COUNTRY

Remember when your college roommate returned from his semester abroad with a lot of mildly amusing anecdotes and a firm conviction that he'd finally come of age? Jonathan Putman's solo piece for Hermit Arts, about his time in Korea teaching English to children, is a lot like that. He seems like a nice enough guy, and his time in Asia was apparently pleasant and without major incident--but that's not much to give an audience. It doesn't help that the show is rather low on wittyobservation and insight: it may come as a surprise to you, but the language barrier caused minor misunderstandings. Imagine! Worse still, Putman's got slides. --Zac Thompson a North theater, 9 PM.

SATURDAY 17

N THE HERMIT IN NEW YORK

Playwright Teresa Weed uses the writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and radical Catholic thinker, as the starting point for this story of his life. But her placid, overlong, dry-as-dust assemblage of set pieces for Still Point Theatre Collective fails to capture the essence of a man who was both removed from the world and deeply engaged with it. For two hours she shows Merton pottering about the hermitage, muttering to himself or entertaining the occasional visitor--who seems to have dropped by mostly so Merton can expound on some subject, rather in the style of a Platonic dialogue. As a result, Weed's play feels stilted and lifeless in a way that Merton's work never does. --Zac Thompson a North theater, 3 PM.

R Jenny Magnus: A Solo Evening

Jenny Magnus embodies the Walt Whitman line "I am large, I contain multitudes." Using minimal props in her two pieces, What Abandon Meant and Cant, she investigates self-sufficiency, trust, self-sacrifice, and love in its many forms: sexual, filial, maternal. Though she looks like your next-door neighbor, she's able to take on the personas of many people and make them come to life. She also sings well, delivering her powerful lyrics in a heartfelt yet matter-of-fact way. The best aspect of her work is its emotional complexity, as she weaves together many contradictory strands of feeling. (LM) a North theater, 7 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/15. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25. Reservations at 773-539-7838.

The John and David Show: More Retro Than You

Poets John Starrs and David Hernandez explore "urban and suburban landscapes." a North theater, 9 PM.

The Bearer, Part 3

Michael Martin presents the latest installment in his series of autobiographical monologues in this premiere by Clove Productions. a North theater, 10:30 PM.

Detail From the Mountain Side

This world premiere, written and directed by Brian Torrey Scott, tells of a man who returns home defeated and broke after a long absence--and of the different ways his friends and family react to his homecoming. a South theater, 10:30 PM.

SUNDAY 18

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/15. a South theater, 3 PM. $15-$25. Reservations at 773-539-7838.

Triad

Hysteria Productions presents a new play by Matthew Wilson, about a therapist who is blackmailed for confidential information on a disfigured patient. James Berner directs. a North theater, 7 PM.

Alphabet Report

Julie Caffey and Barrie Cole present the third installment in their exploration of the alphabet as the inspiration for "ruminations on things minuscule, mammoth, and everything in between." Every performance is semi-improvised. a South theater, 7 PM.

MONDAY 19

The Family Dogs

Through traditional theater, poetry, and multimedia, The Family Dogs explores the memories of a family. The Halfway House Theatre Society's world premiere is written by Chris Bower. a North theater, 7 PM.

Are You Cool or Are You Uncool? and Olivia

Two world premieres. The first, by Laura Hugg, is a semiautobiographical solo piece about "how a driving, misguided obsession to be detached and unaffected while looking really good in black often leaves one laying in a crumpled, pasty heap on the floor of life." The second, by Rose Buckner, is a one-woman show inspired by Buckner's late grandmother, a woman raised by her tradition-bound family in the bluegrass region of 19th-century Kentucky. a South theater, 7 PM.

WEDNESDAY 21

Eat and . . . Should We Put It Out? (The Smoke)

Two world premieres. The first, by Stephen Mosblech, concerns a woman whose inability to eat leads to her confinement in an asylum. It's produced by Asbestos Theatre Project. The second, by Jayita Bhattacharya, tells of two girls who want to be heroes. a North theater, 7 PM.

Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage

Inspired by an Alice Munro story, this event, coordinated by Beau O'Reilly, features weekly performances of new work. Participating artists include Amy England, Johnny Mars, Melissa Walker, and Dave Snyder. a South theater, 7 PM.

THURSDAY 22

Racket Sports, Young Children & Late Bloomers Volume 3: The Bunny Pilsbury Suite

See listing for Thu 9/15. a North theater, 7 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/15. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25. Reservations at 773-539-7838.

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