The Rhinoceros Theater Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival 

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Founded as a component of the Bucktown Arts Fest but now independent of that event, this annual summer showcase of fringe theater, performance, and music has relocated farher north over the past few years. This edition, which runs through September 23, 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. Directed this year by Beau O'Reilly, the event takes it's name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali's use of the term "rhinocerontic" (it means real big); more than 20 companies and individual artists are featured, among them Famous Door, the Curious Theatre Branch, Retro Theatre, Theater Oobleck, Betty's Mouth, Ler Noot Fiesta, Studio 108, David Hauptschein, Terri Kapsalis , Frank Melcori, Julie Laffin , David Kodeski, Warren Leming's Cold Chicago Dance Theater, and Cleveland's New World Performance Laboratory.

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 12 through 19.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

David Kodeski's True Life Tale : Doris

In this one-man show, Kcdeski recounts the long life of a minister's wife, based on anecdotes he gleaned from interviews with the woman (who now lives in retirement home). "Performing in a style that is 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 forms 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 tantial 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 13

Kingerera Great

Peter Handler's play concerns a young man who kidnaps a homeless person in order to have a playmate for the afternoon. Dempsey directs a world premiere for Winthrop Productions. "Positing a society parallel to ours in which most relationship 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 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 14

Kingerera Great

See listing for Friday, September 13.

Famous Door, 7 PM.

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 "imaginitive, deliciously smart work...comes to life in (this) thoroughly absorbing" show, says Reader critic Gabrielle S. Kaplan. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 13.

Famous Door, 9 PM.

The Trips: A Madras Parable

Jenny Magnus's performance piece--the third in a series of mysteriously titled "Madras Parables," each performed with long-time artistic and personal partner Beau O'Reilly--"actually represents two journeys at once. In one Magnus and O'Reilly take a long, aimless mad trip together and drive each other crazy. In the other they travel through their scripts, sorting through what they've projected on each other and what they expect, wondering if two people so intimately intertwined can ever really know each other. Ingeniously, the performers maintain both realities with equal fervency and hilarity....The result is a playful yet exquisitely formal hallucination...performed by the subtlest, hippest comedy team in town," says Ruder critic Justin Hayford of this Curious Theatre Branch production.

Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.

Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

See listing for Friday, September 13.

Famous Door, 11 PM.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 13.

Famous Door, 7 PM.

Inner Life

See listing for Saturday, September 14.

Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

Hyperbolic Gangland

See listing for Friday, September 13.

Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Grandmother in Four Acts, The Dusky Woman, and Excuse Me, What Are You?

This program features three solo performances The first, by Donna Jay Fulks, concerns "The realization of death and the fact that I'm stuck in my stupid family," says the artist. In the second, Judith Greer performs her Connected Poems and new works. The third piece is a multimedia solo performance by director-writer Lisa Wax (created in collaboration with Achy Obejas and Kurt Heintz) that explores how race and culture are constructed and perceived. "Any of these three one-woman shows could easily have devolved into yet another 'poor little me' whimper, but [the performers] all acknowledge that life's sorrows are fundamentally ridiculous and that good-humored irony is he best defense against despair.... Though none of these pieces can be considered a stone in the career of the artist, three of them for the price of one is a bargain," says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge.

Famous Door, 8 PM.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER R 18

Claretta Petacci, Mussolini's Mistress

Monologuist Frank Melcori's new show, performed with Amy Warren, is based on the correspondence between Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his lover. This work-in-progress seeks to explore "the almost operatic ;and ultimately, operatically tragic) nature of their regard for each other [and] the devotion a leader can demand, and sometimes get, from his followers."

Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Bobo's Revenge

This "circus-noir" play by Paul C. Foster, about a detective investigating the serial killings of clowns, explores themes of violence and laughter. It's offered by Faboo! Productions. "Bobo's Revenge, with an intricate plot and nearly two hours of dialogue dense with allusions,...is sometimes obscured by its slapdash clutter, but there's no denying the intelligence and compassion beneath the surface silliness," said Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge when she reviewed the show's premiere earlier this year.

Famous Door, 8 PM.

I Am a Fool

Studio 108 presents Mike Vieau in his adaptation of Sherwood Anderson's short story about a horse trainer ruined by his good intentions. "Anderson's 1923 tale about a young stable hand who lies about his origins to impress a girl is as quaint and sentimental as any yarn of its period. But...Vieau's adaptation remains true to that time, [and Vieau] delivers the character's homespun philosophies...with an earnestness that forces us to take [the work] seriously," says critic Mary Shen Barnidge.

Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.

THURSDAY. SEPTEMBER 19

David Kodeski's True Life Tales: Doris

See listing for Thursday, September 12.

Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

An Evening at the Caffe Cino III See listing for Thursday, September 12. Famous Door, 8 PM.

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