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 10/12: 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.
Angels/Angles Caitlin Montanye Parrish's new musical (with a score by Elizabeth Breen) combines Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland with the little girl who inspired the tale and a contemporary Alice. Erica Weiss directs for Hypatia Theatre Company. a Through 10/25: Wed 7 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 Through 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 10/22: 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?! Halfway House Theatre Society premieres Chris Bower's adaptation of "The End" by Samuel Beckett, "performed atop a painted neon-eyed horse." Presented at Roots on a double bill with The End (see separate listing). a Sun 10/15 and 10/22, 7 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 through 10/20 (see separate listing). On 10/15 and 10/22: presented as a double bill with The, End?! (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 its 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 herself 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.
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.
The Irish Project Beau O'Reilly directs an evening of short works created by students of the School of the Art Institute during a residency at Galway's Burren College of Arts. a 10/19-10/28: Thu 7 PM, Sat 11 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.
R Metaphor Land Obsessions rule the family depicted in Barrie Cole's intelligent, funny new 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," a disarmingly obnoxious deus ex machina who does actually save the family. Though the other characters berate "Cole" for the script's "meta-ing," their attacks invite us to laugh. (LM) a Through 10/13: Fri 7 PM.
My TV Movie of the Week Three short films that "explore the strange side of pop culture," presented by We're So Screwed Productions. a 10/19-10/27: Thu 9 PM, Fri 11 PM.
Myth of Love Minnesota playwright David Kunz penned this black comedy about a suburban couple caught in the throes of a midlife crisis that escalates when the wife hires a hit man to kill the husband. a Through 10/28: Wed 7 PM, Sat 3 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. On Sun 10/8, 7 PM, The Observer will be at Roots on a double bill with Words and Music (see separate listing).
Picking Up Feathers Antonio Sacre's latest solo piece revisits the territory of his Cuban and Irish-American roots and also draws on his work with kids in juvenile detention facilities. Jim Lasko of Redmoon directs this world premiere. a 11/3-11/10: Fri 9:30 PM..
Porno Zombies A Halloween-themed play, written by Matt Casarino and directed by Emily Lotspeich. a Through 10/30: Mon 9:30 PM. Also Tue 10/31, 9:30 PM.
Radio vs. Theater Ira Glass of This American Life and Beau O'Reilly engage in an ongoing series of verbal duels, each determined to prove the supremacy of his chosen medium. a Sun 11/12, 2, 5, and 8 PM, School of the Art Institute of Chicago ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 773-267-6660, $20.
Room Jenny Magnus premieres an original song cycle that takes place in a series of rooms inhabited by "lonely people, tired people, contented people, disgusted people." a 10/14-10/28: Sat 9:30 PM.
R Tennessee Speaks in Tongues for You (or The 3fi-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.
Waiting for Godot Curious Theatre Branch's production of Beckett's play, staged earlier this year as part of No Danger of the . . . Spiritual Thing, the company's Beckett festival, is remounted here under Stefan Brun's direction, with "a twist to emphasize the sound of language." Many of the show's elements are inspired in Brun's nicely paced staging. (JHe) a 11/3-11/5: Fri-Sun 7 PM, Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood.
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.
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 Sun 10/8, 7 PM, on a double bill with The Observer (see separate listing).
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.
Zest for Gloom The solo performance collective BoyGirlBoyGirl--represented here by David Kodeski, Edward Thomas-Herrera, Susan McLaughlin Karp, Rachel Claff, and Diana Slickman--use Beckett's work as the inspiration for a collection of new monologues about "memory, swimming pools, stage directions, and the end of the world." a 10/20-10/27: Fri 7 PM.