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The fringe comes to the fore

A month of edgy theater and performance at Rhinofest

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Positively venerable at the ripe old age of 23, Rhinofest continues its run as one of Chicago's annual go-to events for local fringe theater and performance art. Here are a few likely highlights of the monthlong dramaturgical smorgasbord curated by Curious Theatre Branch:

The kickoff production is Barrie Cole's I Love You Permanently (through 2/10: Fri 7 PM), in which H.B. Ward and Amy Eaton play a "near-miss couple" who pack as much as possible into a single-evening relationship. Their reckless romance is followed by the macabre Stranger(s) (through 2/10: Fri 9 PM), cowritten and directed by longtime off-Loop stalwart Rick Paul.

Curious Theatre Branch offers up shows by a few of its own, including Beau O'Reilly, Jayita Bhattacharya, and Michael Martin. Set in Ireland, O'Reilly's Our Kate Takes a Trip (through 2/12: Sat 7 PM, Sun 1/15 and 2/12 7 PM) follows the effects of an unlucky car ride to Galway. Bhattacharya's Today Like a Kind of Shivering (through 2/12: Sat 9 PM, Sun 1/15 and 2/12 5 pm) presents a "fairy tale of corrosive unacceptability" in which a dropped spoon apparently figures prominently. And Martin directs Beauty (Sat-Sun 1/14-1/15, 3 PM), a one-man "erotic odyssey" inspired by the life of French outlaw poet Jean Genet.

Look for Bruised Orange Theater—the company responsible for I Saw You, based on Reader personals—performing Civil War Dad (through 2/10: Thu 9 PM and Fri 2/10 9 PM), a sci-fi coming-of-age musical about one woman's search through time for her father. And the Reader's 2009 pick for best emerging playwright, Mark Chrisler, checks in with On Loss (through 2/3: Fri 9 PM, opens 1/20) an evening of short plays connected by the theme of—you guessed it—loss.

Closing the festivities is King Pignacious (Sat-Sun 2/11-2/12, 9 PM), a ten-piece band putting on a multimedia "extravaganza" that tells the epic tale of the "Great Pig Wars" against the health care system.

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