This year's Rhinofest salutes a homegrown king of fringe theater | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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This year's Rhinofest salutes a homegrown king of fringe theater

Curious Theatre Branch's 26th annual extravaganza features six plays and a concert by cofounder Beau O'Reilly.


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Last year the Curious Theatre Branch's Rhinoceros fringe festival celebrated its 25th year by celebrating one of its founders, Jenny Magnus. This year the appreciation continues with a tribute to the other founder, Beau O'Reilly. The seven-week 2015 Rhinoceros Theater Festival, aka Rhinofest, will culminate in an extended visit to "Beautown" (Thu 2/26-Sun 3/1), where you'll find six of his idiosyncratic, beboppy plays plus a concert of songs he wrote for his late, lamented, profoundly underrated rock band Maestro Subgum and the Whole (Fri 2/27, 9 PM). Don't expect a Vaseline-lensed wallow in nostalgia: one of the O'Reilly scripts on offer, the tale of a crabby old playwright at a festival, is titled Go Fuck Yourself (2/26-3/1: Thu 9 PM, Sat 4 and 9 PM, Sun 4 PM).

The Reader will be reviewing most of what goes on at the fest starting with next week's issue. In the meantime, here are some shows that may prove interesting.

Described as a "sonic gathering," Sherry Antonini's All Ears (Sun 1/18, 7 PM, Sun 1/25, 3 PM) supplies noise in a range of recorded forms from soundscape and spoken word to rock song. The seven contributors include O'Reilly and Magnus, and there's a Q&A at the end to help you get your head around it. Another ear-based event is Terkelogues: The Snow-in Show (Sun 1/25, 7 PM; Sun 2/8, 3 PM), comprising staged readings of conversations from WFMT's Studs Terkel Radio Archive. O'Reilly and Magnus participate here too, along with Jeremy Campbell.

Of course O'Reilly and Magnus don't appear in everything. There's Literary Lunatics (Sat 1/17-1/31, 2 PM), for instance, starring Magnus's daughter, Lena Luna Magnus Brün. Written by Brün's fellow teen fringer Giselle Greenberg, the new play with music concerns a girl who suspects that the people at her school are characters from the books she's read.

Louise Cloutier serves a "big salad bowl" of vocal music drawn from wildly diverse sources in I Have No Bleeping Clue (Sun 2/22, 8 PM). Playwright/poet Kristiana Rae Colón not only dramatizes poetry slams but conducts one in Octagon Live (Sat 1/17, 10 PM): local poets compete against cast members performing in character. Ira S. Murfin's "talk duet" Our Theatrical Future (Sun 1/18, 3 PM; Mon 1/19 and 1/26, 9 PM), deploys a series of guest artists to recapitulate conversations Murfin had with a collaborator in Hong Kong about theater they have, haven't, and may yet make together. Whiskey Rebellion's The 236th Annual Summit of the Moose Scouts of America (Mon 1/19-2/16, 7 PM) sounds like fun even though it takes place in a near future plagued by ice tornados and smart bees. And I wouldn't want to miss Curious's Judith Harding appearing opposite Theater Oobleck's David Isaacson in Sex and Minutia (Sat 1/24-2/21 and Sun 3/1, 7 PM), a Beautown selection about weathering 25 years of "love, lust, Scrabble, betrayal," and—yes—fringe festivals.

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