When Mad Shak artistic director Molly Shanahan was 12, she sang in the chorus of Puccini’s La boheme–and clearly the music found its way into her heart. Her Dream With Me the Rain, set to excerpts from the opera, is a beautifully universal interpretation of this passionate music and story, without sentimentality but with much feeling. Eleven dancers form a sort of matrix, out of which one or several might emerge to perform a solo or duets, but there are no “leads,” and even gender seems fluid: in one section, two lines of dancers facing front seem to represent male and female. In another section set to a march, the dancers move across the stage in a partying phalanx, boogying in a weird but absolutely right interpretation of the military beat. Perhaps what’s most beautiful about the piece is that it conveys the sense that everyone lives with tragedy, everyone needs support. Also on the program is Cock and Bull Stories, a collaboration between Shanahan and cofounder Kevin O’Donnell inspired by Sartre’s “hell is other people” play, No Exit. Set in a sort of living room with several seating arrangements, this piece for 11 dancers, with music and text by O’Donnell, seems to explore the different ways we communicate (or fail to): through intellectual argument, casual conversation, poetry, movement of various kinds. The piece seems to ask “What registers and why?”–a question embedded in the work itself as we struggle to assimilate its verbal and visual musings. The other new piece on the program is the Shanahan-O’Donnell collaboration What Their Glances Would Hold. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 through October 14 (the second weekend also includes performances by Cleveland’s Repertory Project) in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; $15. Call 773-296-0218 for tickets and information.

–Laura Molzahn

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