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The Rhinoceros Theater Festival

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The Rhinoceros Theater Festival

Directed this year by Beau O'Reilly, this annual summer showcase of fringe theater, performance, and music takes its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhinocerontic" (it means real big). Founded as a component of the Bucktown Arts Fest but now independent of that event, has relocated farther north over the past few years; this year's edition, which runs through September 22, is housed at the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln, and the Famous Door Theatre Company, Jane Addams Center Hull House, 3212 N. Broadway.

Rhino Fest tickets cost $7 per program or $10 for any two programs, except for special events whose prices are noted in the listings. For reservations and information, call 327-6666 for shows at Lunar Cabaret or 409-3884 for shows at Famous Door.

The Reader lists festival schedules (which are subject to last-minute change) on a week-by-week basis; following is the schedule for September 19 through 22.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19

David Kodeski's True Life Tales: Doris

In this one-man show, Kodeski recounts the long life of a minister's wife, based on anecdotes he gleaned from interviews with the woman (who now lives in a local retirement home). "Performing in a style that's the very antithesis of drag--sans wig, falsetto, and stereotyped feminine gestures--Kodeski is nevertheless remarkably affecting," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

An Evening at the Caffe Cino III

The Retro Theatre Company performs two short plays by writers associated with the landmark off-off-Broadway theater of the 60s: Robert Patrick's Camera Obscura and John Guare's A Day for Surprises. Also on the bill is a new work by Retro member Sara Reily, My Sister's Waltz, about the complex relationships of three sisters. "Retro's attempt to 'capture the spirit of past ages' . . . confuses nostalgic simulacrum with art. . . . Steve Reily's mountings of [the] two insubstantial Cino one-acts . . . are tame and conventional, [and the] one original piece . . . is as dry and stiff as 30-year-old bread," says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Famous Door, 8 PM.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Kingerera Great

Peter Handler's play concerns a young man who kidnaps a homeless person in order to have a playmate for the afternoon. Joe Dempsey directs a world premiere for Winthrop Productions. "Positing a society parallel to ours in which most relationships and modes of interaction feel obsolete, the playwright depicts a miserable, fantasy-obsessed wretch who takes a pathetic homeless man hostage for an afternoon of game playing. . . . In this thought-provoking if somewhat single-minded hour-long work, a skilled and intelligent playwright inspires us to consider his critiques of our society's need for victims, our alienation, and the apparent pointlessness of theater. . . . The major flaw of this 'absurdist hostage drama' is that its savage and nihilistic underpinnings feel mannered and its twisting conclusion predictable," says Reader critic Adam Langer. Famous Door, 7 PM.

Hyperbolic Gangland

The Curious Theatre Branch presents Bryn Magnus's collection of "dreamscape examinations of pop-life violence and its real-live effects." Jenny Magnus directs. "The two very short one-acts that make up the first part of Hyperbolic Gangland are . . . carefully written, . . . gracefully directed, . . . and finely acted. . . . Unfortunately, the last third . . . needs much more work before it's fit for public consumption," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

Maureen Ryan directs Vaclav Havel's absurdist farce about an intellectual being driven mad by sexual and political complications. "What makes [the] play more than just another witty satire about a bankrupt social system is the work's extraordinary cubist structure. . . . A mind-bending way to tell a story, but it makes perfectly clear the unnatural world Havel's characters inhabit. . . . Ryan's production more or less successfully re-creates Havel's crazy universe," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Famous Door, 9 PM.

Lip Trips & Jello

Cin Salach and Sheila Donahue, aka Betty's Mouth, perform an evening of a cappella rhythm poetry. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.

Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

Todd Petersen stars in his own one-man play about an actor's progression from show-offy toddler to middle-aged gay man. Patrick New directs. "At 45 minutes Me, Me, Me, Me, Me! is not exactly overdeveloped, but it's a sweet-tempered look at the discontinuities that together forge a personality. . . . Ultimately Petersen's charm and honesty negate the familiarity and sentimentality of his show," says Reader critic Lawrence Bommer. Famous Door, 11 PM.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

The Book of Saints and Martyrs

The festival's only non-Chicago company, Cleveland's New World Performance Laboratory, presents its non-linear exploration of the life and work of theatrical revolutionary Antonin Artaud, evoking the French actor-director's "theatre of cruelty" with rhythmic and physical ritual, including some simulated violence. The company's directors, James Slowiak and Jairo Cuestra, studied under the Polish avant-garde director Jerzy Grotowski; the production features former Chicago actor Lisa Black. Famous Door, 7 PM. $10.

Inner Life

The Curious Theatre Branch series of stage adaptations of stories by Wisconsin writer Angela Woodward begins with "Mr. Distar," about an encounter between two former college friends--a professor wrapped up in ivory-tower theorizing and a near-homeless woman who was replaced in her teaching position by a robot. Woodward's "imaginative, deliciously smart work . . . comes to life in [this] thoroughly absorbing" show, says Reader critic Gabrielle S. Kaplan. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM. Note: The performance is followed by a closing party, featuring live music by the Hidden Chronicles and the Betsy Years.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 20. Famous Door, 9 PM.

Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

See listing for Friday, September 20. Famous Door, 11 PM.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

The Book of Saints and Martyrs

See listing for Saturday, September 21. Famous Door, 3 PM. $10.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 20. Famous Door, 7 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo from "The Book of Saints and Martyrs".

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