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Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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This annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago's fringe, coproduced by Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr, runs through 11/12. This year's festival includes an emphasis on work by, or inspired by, Samuel Beckett. All performances are at the Prop Thtr, 3502-4 N. Elston, unless otherwise noted. Several performances will be at Roots, an offshoot of Curious Theatre Branch located in a private home; the address will be provided when reservations are made. Admission is $15 or "pay what you can," except where noted. For information and reservations, call 773-539-7838 or visit www. rhinofest.com. Following is the schedule through 9/28: a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

R And I The Sprung Movement Theatre finds captivating ways to do almost nothing onstage. They're subtle, hip clowns whose every tiny gesture communicates and who never indulge in overwrought posturing. Their new 50-minute piece And I focuses on an unstable friendship between two men that begins when one of them lugs a heavy sack onstage, then jumps out of his skin when the other crawls out of it. Jon Sherman and Anthony Courser explore myriad male rituals for nonintimate intimacy--slapping each other on the back, arm wrestling, comparing muscles, sprawling on the sofa watching cable. And then a birdlike, vaguely menacing woman (Karen Foley) tries to wedge herself into the relationship. There may be a few too many digressions for the piece to feel like a satisfying whole, but Sprung still makes this deliberately empty evening engrossing and hilarious. (JHa)

a Through 10/7: Sat 9:30 PM.

Being at Choice Factory Theater reprises its 2004 production of Michael Meredith's comedy. Meredith's affectionate parody of support groups is not quite sharp or dark enough for a full-length play. What's missing is a cohesive narrative. (JV) a Through 10/9: Mon 7 PM.

Brewed Six weird sisters stir a mysterious potion and conjure forth old demons in Scott T. Barsotti's new play, performed by Roundelay Theatre Company under Barsotti's direction. Presented at Roots on a double bill with The End (see separate listing). a 9/22-10/20: Fri 7 PM.

Classic Shorts: Beckett/Albee Greasy Joan & Co. present a trio of one-acts: Footfalls and Come and Go by Beckett, both directed by Julieanne Ehre, and Counting the Ways by Edward Albee, directed by Libby Ford. a Through 10/15: Sun 7 PM.

The Climb Up Mount Chimborazo Nonsense Company from Madison, Wisconsin, presents Rick Burkhardt's fanciful meditation on South American liberator Simon Bolivar and his tutor Simon Robinson, inspired in part by the historical collage novels of Eduardo Galeano.

a Through 10/15: Sun 7 PM.

Danger Face: The Slow Burn Idris Goodwin offers the second part of his pulp serial--the first premiered last summer. Inspired by Beckett's Waiting for Godot, it follows two outlaw brothers into a fantastical art gallery. Joe Peracchio of New Mexico's Tricklock Theatre Company directs, and Michael Haeflinger provides live musical accompaniment. a Through 10/14: Sat 11 PM.

The End Beau O'Reilly's adaptation of the Beckett short story is performed by Matthew Wilson under O'Reilly's direction. Presented at Roots. a Through 10/27: Fri 7 PM, presented as a double bill with Brewed (see separate listing).

R Endgame Samuel Beckett's existential masterpiece, about a blind man stuck in a room with his servant, is an exquisitely static portrait of mankind's last gasp. Director Jeffrey Bivens steers the cast away from the script's overt humor, and Beau O'Reilly and Guy Massey focus on the script's dark subtext to create 90 minutes of engaging bleakness. (JHa)

a Through 10/14: Sat 3 and 7 PM. Then 10/21-10/29: Sat-Sun 7 PM.

R Happy Days Cecilie O'Reilly and Dwight Eastman perform Beckett's last full-length play, about a middle-aged woman buried in the barren earth--to her waist in the first act, to her neck in the second. Dead set on keeping her spirits up, all she has to occupy her is rummaging through her purse, putting up a parasol, and prattling to her nearly mute husband. Though the woman is typically portrayed as forcefully chipper and almost totemic, O'Reilly (who also directs) plays her as introspective, brooding, and at times overtly bored. This approach drains some of the urgency from the play, as does the extensive editing of the text, but it also scales the character and the humor down to human size, making it intimate and gentle. (JHa) a Through 10/15: Sun 3 PM.

I Left My Birth Control in Baltimore Super Cool Sluuts of America (aka Kate Bergeron, Kathryn Korosi, Jenn Spain, and Sarah Weis) incorporate music, comedy, and choreography in an exploration of "the modern female experience." a Through 9/27: Wed 7 PM.

In the Dark Writer/performer Israel Antonio's autobiographical solo play traces the effect of sudden blindness on his journey through adolescence. Scott Vehill directs. a Through 10/27: Fri 9:30 PM.

R Krapp's Last Tape and Thee This bill from Clove Productions pairs Beckett's monologue about a decrepit old man listening to a tape he made of himself 30 years earlier with a new play by Michael Martin about two women who "navigate the boat of their life through shallows and storms." Many interpret Beckett's plays as exercises in unrelenting gloom. His world is routine in both the sense of well-worn habit and well-worn shtick, suggesting that humanity's struggles to stave off despair are as stale as amateur vaudeville. But though the feeble characters stumble through blasted, comfortless wastelands only to discover that their trials amount to nothing, their deluded efforts to maintain some dignity in a world of perpetual debasement make for profound comedy. You can almost judge the success of three Beckett productions in the festival by the number of thoughtful laughs they provide. Under Beau O'Reilly's meticulous direction, Michael Martin creates a pitiful and absurd old man, someone who sees that his effort to create a brilliant chronicle of his life has fallen tragicomically flat. (JHa) a Through 9/27: Wed 7 PM.

Macbeth None So Far, described as a "Rhino all-star ensemble," offers a Beckettian take on the Shakespearean tragedy, directed by John Starrs. a 10/21-10/29: Sat-Sun 3 PM.

RNMETAPHOR LAND | Obsessions rule the family in Barrie Cole's intelligent, funny play: the father is consumed by ethical dilemmas, the mother balances her compulsive interest in poetry with compulsive interests in juice boxes and jigsaw puzzles, and a grown son "escapes" by writing a logorrheic blog about his parents. Enter a woman who's a poet, an actress playing the poet, and "Barrie Cole." Though the other characters berate her for the script's "meta-ing" ("It's so pretentious!"), their attacks invite us to laugh. So does the character of "Cole," a disarmingly obnoxious deus ex machina who does actually save the family. A climactic homage to Abbey Road does little but provide a flurry of activity, however. More affecting is the final homage, to Emily Dickinson. --Laura Molzahn

a Through 10/13: Fri 7 PM.

The Observer and Gazooly Mark Chrisler's new lecture-cum-solo performance takes up where the beloved time-traveling sci-fi television series Quantum Leap (which featured a character named "Sam Beckett") left off. Olivia Cronk's Gazooly is "part poetry, part vaudeville," performed by an ensemble. a Through 10/12: Thu 9:30 PM.

Porno Zombies A Halloween-themed play, written by Matt Casarino and directed by Emily Lotspeich. a 9/25-10/30: Mon 9:30 PM. Also Tue 10/31, 9:30 PM.

R Tennessee Speaks in Tongues for You (or The 31/2-Character Play) New Orleans-based playwright R.J. Tsarov's play, a fantasia on the work of Tennessee Williams, receives a local premiere under the direction of filmmaker John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). Tsarov's method of delivering truths is more disturbing than the observations themselves, which tend to be on Williams's usual subjects: the ephemeral nature of the world and the fragility of the human psyche. Offering a witty comic send-up of the tantrum-prone alcohol- and drug-addled Williams of the late 70s and early 80s, the play suggests that Williams is infected by a parasite with the power to control his thoughts, feelings, and speech. Stealing a page from William S. Burroughs (another drug-using gay writer from Saint Louis), Tsarov wrings every paranoid interpretation he can out of his provocative premise, making his dictator parasite at once a literal alien presence, a metaphor for artistic creation, and an expression of anxiety about our bodies not doing what we want them to. The two other characters in the piece are an abnormally close brother and sister (refugees from Williams's The Two-Character Play). This Gordian knot of a script makes for a rich postmodern evening of puzzles, one of them being who was the real Tennessee Williams? McNaughton makes the Pirandellian plot, questions within questions, and unresolved feelings and yearnings echo in our heads and hearts. And the actors perform with an intensity and commitment that make even the most preposterous elements of Tsarov's story believable. (JHe) a Through 10/28: Sat 9:30 PM.

Unperceivable Perception a Contradiction #347: Reading Berkeley at the U. of C. Steve Peterson's solo, directed by Neo-Futurist founder Greg Allen, is an interactive exploration of Peterson's travails in writing his PhD dissertation in philosophy at the University of Chicago, complete with fantasies about Susan Sontag and "at least one sing-along musical number." a Through 10/12: Thu 7 PM.

What Where, The Jesus Fields, and Green Science Bloody Done Hate A trio of short plays, presented by Ooftish Theatre. In addition to Beckett's meditation on torture, the evening includes Matthew Test's exploration of "Jesus as an agricultural product" and Jayita Bhattacharya's play about murder and revenge. a Through 10/23: Mon 7 PM.

The Whole Thing Kristy Lockhart premieres a new evening of tales "usual and unusual," inspired by her family in Birmingham, Alabama. Presented at Roots. a Through 9/24: Sun 7 PM. On a double bill with Words and Music (see separate listing).

Words and Music The Billy Goat Experiment performs Beckett's radio play, directed by Catherine Jarboe and with new music by Troy Martin played live. Presented at Roots. a Through 10/8: Sun 7 PM. On a double bill with The Whole Thing (see separate listing) through 9/24 only.

Year Brian Torrey Scott's new musical about "time, rest, forgetting and grief" features a score by Azita Youssefi and Sam Wagster. a Through 10/27: Fri 9:30 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kristin Basta.

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