The 20 companies in this first-time event (presented in conjunction with the fifth annual Bucktown Arts Fest) may not define the state of avant-garde theater on Chicago, but they offer a look at the diverse visions that operate under that very loose category. Performances are held at three venues: the Garage, 1843 W. North; the Firehouse, 1625 N. Damen; and the Society for New Things, 1573 N. Milwaukee. (A symposium on "The Effect of Avant Theatre in Chicago," whose panelists include Reader contributors Anthony Adler, Lawrence Bommer, and Albert Williams, will be held on Monday, August 20, at the Firehouse.) In addition to the 22 different shows presented in the nine-day "Rhino Fest," an afternoon Free Theatre Festival on August 25 and 26 will present three additional plays plus repeat performances of three "Rhino Fest" selections at the Holstein Park field house, 2200 N. Oakley. The telephone number for all theater events is 235-1944. Single-ticket admission to "Rhino Fest" shows costs $7; package prices are $25 for four tickets, $36 for six, and $50 for ten. This week's schedule follows.
SELECTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF HOPE The Blueprint Theatre Group and the Marcel Duchamp Memorial Players join forces for a program of pieces on the theme of hope, co-written by playwright Keith Huff and composers Mark Konewko and James Gailloreto. At the Firehouse, August 17 and 18; Friday and Saturday, 8 PM.
BETTER RED IN BED See the regular theater listings for a description of this new comedy. At the Firehouse, August 17; Friday, 10 PM.
NEON WILDERNESS See the regular theater listings for a description of this music-theater piece. At the Society for New Things, August 17 and 19; Friday and Sunday, 8 PM.
OPEN SYZYGY--SOME MADRAS PARABLES See the regular theater listings for a description of this performance piece. At the Society for New Things, August 17; Friday, 10 PM.
THEATRE ONE Samuel Beckett's dark one-act comedy about an encounter between two men--one who can't see and one who can't walk--is performed by the PUS theater. At the Garage, August 17 and 23; Friday, 8 PM; Thursday, 10 PM.
WOMEN AND WALLACE Jonathon Marc Silverman's play about a young man whose life is traced through the women he knew is performed by the Griffin Theatre. At the Garage, August 17 and 22; Friday, 10 PM, and Wednesday, 8 PM.
AN EDUCATED MAN A Stage of One's Own performs a drama about a Palestinian youth in Israel. At the Firehouse, August 18; Saturday, 10 PM.
MAMBAY The Society for New Things presents a music-theater work. At the Society for New Things, August 18; Saturday, 10 PM.
MOBY DICK Redmoon Theater's 40-minute puppet play by Jeff Dorchen and Blair Thomas, based on Herman Melville's novel, is "exciting and innovative," says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. At the Garage, August 18; Saturday, 3 PM.
WHERE THE PEOPLE HAVE NO EYES The Theatre of the Reconstruction presents Scott Turner's new play about three people who battle their way toward faith, vision, and affirmation. The production contains "some stunning acting and haunting visual and aural images [that] help to overcome the pompous language and obscure story," says Reader critic Diana Spinrad. At the Garage, August 18; Saturday, 8 PM.
NATURAL LAW This theater piece is performed by the Collection and can also be seen this weekend as part of Mary-Arrchie Theatre's "Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins II" festival (see description in the regular theater listings). At the Garage, August 18; Saturday, 10 PM.
SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO See description in regular theater listings. At the Firehouse, August 19; Sunday, 8 PM. Then at the Society for New Things, August 22; Wednesday, 8 PM.
LOS FANTOCHES The Latino Experimental Theatre Company's Spanish-language performance uses an old ritual to find new meanings. At the Firehouse, August 19; Sunday, 10 PM.
OLD TIMES The Sterling Theatre Company performs the Harold Pinter drama. At the Garage, August 19; Sunday, 8 PM. Then at the Society for New Things, August 21; Tuesday, 8 PM.
LEXIS PRAXIS This Zebra Crossing Theatre production features staged versions of poetry and stories by Chicago writers (including Reader contributors Lynda J. Barry and Achy Obejas). At the Garage, August 19 and 21; Sunday, 10 PM, and Tuesday, 8 PM.
MORE This piece is performed by the Sidework Theatre. At the Garage, August 21; Tuesday, 10 PM. Then at the Society for New Things, August 22; Wednesday, 10 PM.
MISS MARGARIDA'S WAY Roberto Athayde's black comedy, performed by Epicenter, uses a neurotic schoolteacher with the audience as the class--as a metaphor for governmental and religious tyranny. At the Garage, August 22; Wednesday, 10 PM. Then at the Society for New Things, August 23; Thursday, 8 PM.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS SHOW The Prop Theatre presents "scenes from other talk shows and some segments from the Bill of Rights." At the Garage, August 23; Thursday, 8 PM.