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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 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. 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 10/6; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

THURSDAY 29

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

The HalfwayHouse Theater Society's cloying, precious one-act, a world premiere by M.S. Duffey, strains for Wodehousian whimsy. A seminarian/wannabe economist joins forces with an economist/wannabe novelist at the home of a wealthy young woman on whom both have designs, as well as tangled relationships with her late father (who apparently was not really her father). As directed by James E. Whittington, the performances are deliberately stilted and presentational, with the droll exception of Padraic Connelly as the mournfully understated economist. (KR) a North theater, 7 PM.

R 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 Prop Thtr/Rasaka Theatre Company coproduction, his story turns into an impassioned plea for the dignity of all people disenfranchised by the march toward modernity. This world premiere crackles under Anish Jethmalani's sharp direction. (ZT) a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25; reservations at 773-539-7838.

FRIDAY 30

R The Book of Grendel

Dan Telfer's play, a world premiere from Theater Oobleck, is inspired by the mythic monster from Beowulf. 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 is excellent in the title role--part Caliban, part Kramden. (ZT) a North theater, 7 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/29. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25; reservations at 773-539-7838.

Into Hermit Country

Hermit Arts' world premiere, written and performed by Jonathan Putman, is a solo piece based on Putman's experiences as a teacher of English in South Korea. Putman 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. The show is rather low on witty observation and insight. Worse still, Putman's got slides. (ZT) a North theater, 9 PM.

SATURDAY 1

The Rabbit Man's Tale

The FastFish Puppet Theater's kids' show, recommended for children aged 4 to 12, relates the adventures of a young man's quest for his rabbit after it escapes to the mountains. Written by Blair Thomas, the wordless piece is performed by human-size Bunraku puppets to a live piano rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. a North theater, 1 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 9/29. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25; reservations at 773-539-7838.

c Wide Open Beaver Shot of My Heart, a Comedy With a Body Count

a North theater, 9 PM.

Detail From the Mountain Side

This world premiere by talented writer-director Brian Torrey Scott departs from the airless self-consciousness that's marred his earlier efforts. Scott still displays a penchant for aphoristic dialogue that doesn't always advance plot or allow insight into the characters, but at least he seems to have battled his aversion to giving the story's background and circumstances. A man returns to his hometown and tries to pick up the pieces of his relationships with his best friend, his sister, and a woman who might be a former flame. The songs are occasionally strained, but Jeff Harms and Donovan Sherman give solid performances, and Jen Morris's color-saturated slides are lovely. (KR) a North theater, 10:30 PM.

Mary Shelley and Her Monsters

The Upstart Theatre Group's world premiere enacts episodes from the life of writer Mary Shelley as well as popular images of her most famous creation, Frankenstein's Creature. a South theater, 10:30 PM.

SUNDAY 2

The Rabbit Man's Tale

See listing for Sat 10/1. a North theater, 1 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/29. a South theater, 3 PM. $15-$25; reservations at 773-539-7838.

Radio vs. Theater: The Final Smackdown

Playwright-actor Beau O'Reilly faces off with radio personality Ira Glass in this evening of "dueling monologues." a School of the Art Institute Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 7 PM. $20.

Triad

Hysteria Productions presents Matthew Wilson's elliptical noirish new play, about a therapist who is blackmailed for confidential information on a disfigured patient. James G. Berner's staging is too deliberate at points, undercutting the story's underlying tension, and the intentionally vague resolution may frustrate some viewers. But it's an intriguing piece that with more work should realize its full potential. (KR) 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. Cole's eccentric lists are dizzying, but Caffey alternately grounds Cole when she gets too out there and ventures into outer space herself when Cole becomes obsessed, as she sometimes does, with finding the infinite in quotidian specks. Watching this hour-long show is like flipping through a great poet's journal: long stretches of fairly dry material are punctuated by moments of amazing verbal pyrotechnics. (JHe) a South theater, 7 PM.

MONDAY 3

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 5

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 6

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

See listing for Thu 9/29. a North theater, 7 PM.

R The Masrayana

See listing for Thu 9/29. a South theater, 8 PM. $15-$25; reservations at 773-539-7838.

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