The Problematic Cartoonist | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Problematic Cartoonist 

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The Rhinoceros Theater Festival has always been one of the high points of Chicago's theater scene, but in recent years the event has begun to drift. The festival began as a showcase for new plays back when big, ambitious scripts were pouring out of Wicker Park in a torrent. As that neighborhood began to drown in tony restaurants and luxury automobiles, the Curious Theatre Branch, by then the fest's host, fled north and the festival started to go a bit soft, heavy on unfinished, easy-to-produce one-person shows and light on fully scripted plays. For the most part the work was novel and intriguing--most notably Larry Steger's final solo piece, Draft, which premiered last year--but the festival seemed to be shrinking in scope. For its tenth anniversary, however, the Rhino returns to its roots, featuring six weeks of (mostly) brand-new plays from some of the city's brightest talents, including Eric Ziegenhagen, Greg Allen, Danny Thompson, and Curious's own Jenny Magnus. This year's festivities open with Jeff Dorchen's The Problematic Cartoonist, the hit of the 1998 Rhino in Winter fest. Dorchen weaves a caustic tale of a self-indulgent New Yorker cartoonist locked in battle with a self-righteous critic/fan whose loudmouth daughter suffers from a rare condition that causes her bones to outgrow her body. Dorchen--one of the few playwrights in town who could bring such disparate strands together into a compelling and meaningful narrative--exemplifies the kind of vision and ambition to which the festival returns. Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, 773-327-6666. Friday, August 27, 8 PM. $10 or "pay what you can."

--Justin Hayford

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