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The Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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What started as a performance component of the Bucktown Arts Fest has taken on a life of its own: this is the fifth annual incarnation of the Rhino Fest, whose name is inspired by surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhinocerontic" (it means real big). Organized this year by Beau O'Reilly, Michael Martin, and Colm O'Reilly, who have endeavored to combine a broad scope and a cutting-edge sensibility, the event closes this weekend having showcased some 25 individuals and ensembles (plus several bands), including well-known folks like Jenny Magnus, Theater Oobleck, Paula Killen, Marc Smith, the Curious Theatre Branch, John Starrs, David Hernandez, Splinter Group, Frank Melcori, Redmoon Theater, and New Crime Productions.

Rhinoceros Theater Festival performances take place at the Curious Theatre Branch, 1836 W. North; Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division; and Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division; a closing night party takes place at the Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division. The phone number for all Rhino Fest information is 384-2241. Tickets (except in special cases noted in the listings) are $7 per program or $10 for any two programs.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Theater for the Age of Gold

Jeff Dorchen and a "mystery guest" perform a series of short two-character plays Dorchen wrote, including "Prologue to Earth Be Damned," "The Atrocity," "Ventriloquist One," "One Day in Germany," and "Allegory of French Involvement in the Indochinese Opium Trade." Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

Invisible Sympathies

Jellyeye's Bryn Magnus wrote this collection of three untitled one-act character studies. "Perhaps under the influence of the eloquent, simple writing, Mark Comiskey, Mark Hanks, [Colm] O'Reilly, and Magnus himself turn in their best performances yet," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.

Better Living

The Resistance Theatre performs Canadian playwright George F. Walker's dark comedy about a family coming to terms with the past after being abandoned by its abusive father. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Douglas Grew and Frank Melcori

Normally seen in their respective one-man shows, Grew and Melcori team up for The 84,000 Human Agonies, about two monks whose separate paths lead them from "the cheap sex and squalor of modern life to the clear snow Zen mountains of Korea." Curious Theatre Branch, 10 PM.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

The Dolphinback theater company, which just celebrated its first birthday last month, offers a work in progress based on the Santa Claus myth. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3

Foot Notes Boot Licks Toe Jams

David Isaacson, best known for the witty, well-educated explorations of popular and high culture he's written for Theater Oobleck (The Making of Freud), offers an evening of self-written solo performance under Oobleck's auspices. The program includes: "Havel/Bickle," which posits encounters between an eastern European artist-politician and a dangerous New York taxi driver; "Bull/Krupp," which traces the philosophical lineage of Nazi Germany's arms-manufacturing dynasty to the American inventor of Iraq's never-completed supergun; and "Minutes," in which Isaacson ruminates on his day job as a "paid social activist." " "Minutes' [is] exquisitely crafted. . . . But [the] more ambitious pieces, despite their fascinating texts, are hampered by a lack of attention to theatrical conventions," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM. $7, or "pay what you can."

Rational Malaise

Kathleen Ross's collection of short plays and monologues addresses such subjects as matching ads, teen lust, and metaphysical mind games at a wedding reception. "Ross has a refreshingly light touch. She's not didactic, nor does she feed her ideas too easily to her audience. . . . Each of these short pieces seems like it could be a scene in a larger, more satisfying play," said Reader critic Maura Troester when she reviewed the show's premiere earlier this season. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Betty's Mouth and Marianne Fieber

Performance poets Cindy Salach and Sheila Donohue of Betty's Mouth display their style of "vocal choreography" in I'm a Stranger Here, Myself, while Fieber performs her one-woman show Under the Hat, seen earlier this season at the Curious Theatre Branch, in which she portrays different characters by changing her chapeau. Curious Theatre Branch, 10 PM.

Better Living

See listing for Friday, September 2. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4

Maestro Subgum & the Whole, Swollen Spleens, and The Betsy Years

Three bands three, making live music for the Rhino Fest's closing night party. Bop Shop, 9 PM. $5 at the door.

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

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