This ambitious showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago’s fringe began as part of the Bucktown Arts Fest. Now it’s produced by the Curious Theatre Branch. Taking its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s use of the term “rhinocerontic” (it means real big), the 13th annual Rhino Fest runs through October 13. Performances take place at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, and at Prop Thtr, 4225 N. Lincoln. Admission is $10 or “pay what you can”; for information and reservations, call 773-327-6666.

Following is the schedule for October 3 through 10; a complete schedule is available on-line at


Deep Listening

This one-woman play, written by Teresa Weed and performed by Lisa Wagner, examines the experiences of dying patients and their caregivers. “Weed is a writer of enormous promise with a knack for boiling down complicated truths to exquisite nuggets of prose….But about halfway through the piece [she] loses direction and begins taking the audience on a ghoulish tour, mercilessly piling on scene after scene of suffering. The struggle to find a meaningful path into death all but disappears. It doesn’t help that… Wagner lunges with disturbing gusto into the most macabre moments,” says Reader critic Justin Hayford of this Still Point Theater Collective production. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


“Hardships of unimaginable brutality are illuminated in Karine Koret’s Mazel. Based on interviews with her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, Koret’s solo piece pays tribute to the life force. Beau O’Reilly’s staging makes inventive use of props, [and] Koret’s performance as her grandfather is physically adept and remarkably devoid of bitterness and histrionics….The narrative does get a bit confusing and repetitive….But overall the piece celebrates the ability to endure with love and courage–and, of course, luck–and gives dignity and warmth to the vanishing generation of Holocaust survivors,” says Reader critic Kerry Reid. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.



“In KellyAnn Corcoran’s witty homage to Waiting for Godot, two women in white satin gloves (Corcoran and Elaine Ellis) are driving somewhere. We don’t know where they came from or where they’re going; we don’t know who they are or what their relationship is. Perhaps one is a mother; perhaps one is a murderess. What we do know is that they share a long history but can’t communicate what they’re really thinking or feeling. Instead they bicker about semantics and the meaning of dreams, trapped in the car out of a sense of obligation–but we’re not sure to what….Corcoran manages to make the conversation funny, character revealing, slightly tragic, and intellectually intriguing….The underlying themes are a little murky: is this about (mis)communication between women, the entrapment of middle-class women in the cage of children and marriage, or something else?…Corcoran’s vivid imagery and Gregory Werstler’s fast-paced staging keep the play rolling even when the characters are stuck in traffic,” says Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

Small Potatoes

Scott Vehill directs Paul Espel’s play about two men trying to save the small town they ended up in by mistake. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.

The Very Long Kiss

Go Cougars! Theater Company presents Joe Meno’s play about a widower’s second chance at love. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.

One Two Three Four Five

“The life cycle of romance is put under the microscope in Brian Torrey Scott’s wistful [piece], which tangentially uses the laws of thermodynamics as metaphors for love, embodied in two couples played by the same actors….The playwright’s simple, deft staging…aids his funny, poignant look at the hardships of the heart,” says Reader critic Kerry Reid. Prop Thtr, 9 PM.


Discovery Tales

The Curious Theatre Branch performs a quartet of stories by Bryn Magnus under Ron Bieganski’s direction. “Magnus’s writing explodes with adventurous wordplay and riveting imagery,” said Reader critic Justin Hayford when he reviewed these pieces as part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s “Love & Sin: A Solo Experience” earlier this year. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

Saving Face

See Critic’s Choice. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.


See listing for Friday, October 4. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.

Underwater Football

“Julie Caffey’s autobiographical piece about her rocky relationship with her disgruntled older brother and reclusive father doesn’t take long to reach its inevitable conclusion: who we really are is who our parents made us. Water is the dominant motif: framing her tale with the biblical story of Jonah, she suggests the importance of destiny and biology and the regenerative properties of a cataclysmic storm. Still, the most penetrating moments in this hour-long self-help session are personal, when Caffey makes uneasy attempts to untangle the snarled branches of her own dysfunctional family tree. Director Susan Nussbaum has helped eliminate some of the layers of fruity theatricality that obscured Caffey’s earlier version of the piece….That in turn has opened Caffey up to a more honest, grounded performance,” says Reader critic Nick Green. Prop Thtr, 9 PM.


Truck in Pieces

“Notwithstanding its central character’s mantra–‘I’m not going anywhere; where’m I gonna go?’–Beau O’Reilly’s new play tells the story of a journey. O’Reilly’s Bloom, like Joyce’s before him, spends a long day traveling on the fringes of the urban landscape as he struggles to square his memories with the present. And though every detail resonates with Ulysses, the play also stands on its own as a character study of ‘Truck’ Bloom, a never-was boxer in midcentury Chicago. Between efforts to reconcile with his ex-wife, bail out his son, and protect some puppies, this mensch masquerading as a thug (O’Reilly himself in a perfect performance that earns sympathy without ever begging for it) relives encounters with his father, his ‘jag-off’ brother, and Joey Buzz, a hero of his youth. These three, and many others, are played by the spectacular Guy Massey, whose ability to create a whole new character out of a slight shift in stance makes costume changes almost superfluous. Likewise, he gives boxing such a homoerotic charge that the play’s explicitly gay encounter seems unnecessary. Despite a few such wrong turns, Truck in Pieces portrays the search for redemption with great warmth and depth,” said Reader critic Kelly Kleiman of this Curious Theatre Branch production during its run earlier this year. Lunar Cabaret, 3 PM.

The Very Long Kiss

See listing for Friday, October 4. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

Saving Face

See Critic’s Choice. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.



The Hermit Theater presents Idris Goodwin’s play about two black men whose longtime friendship is altered when one seeks to be more like the other. “Verses….marks the playwright-director as a talent to watch….Goodwin’s script touches on intriguing issues, such as whether one’s acts are determined by personal integrity or self-sabotage. But the play lacks a satisfying conclusion…. Still, Goodwin has a well-honed sense for dialogue, and despite some awkward transitions, the actors give honest, gritty performances,” says Reader critic Kerry Reid. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

The Mindtick and Midwestern Love Song

The Mindtick, written by Nicole Kupper and directed by Jennifer Huffman, explores the world of a nuclear family. Midwestern Love Song, an adaptation of a poem by Jimmie Cumbie, is directed by Pauline Fatyga. Prop Thtr, 7 PM.


Makers on Making

This panel discussion, moderated by Beau O’Reilly, features artists explaining the choices they make while creating a performance art piece. Panelists include Paul Amandes, Sue Cargill, Marianne Fieber, Kastutis Nakis, Cin Salach, and Jessica Thebus. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.



A history professor returns to the small western hometown she abandoned after high school in Heidi Broadhead’s play. “Broadhead’s script is constructed on several levels: the characters speak of doing ‘scenes’ or don professorial spectacles to address us from an imaginary downstage podium….This many conceits could easily become chaotic, but Ned O’Reilly’s dexterous direction quickly dispels the initial…confusion, establishing characters and their eras despite a uniformly youthful cast,” says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


Stalking Spalding Gray

This piece, written and performed by Steven Schwarz, is based on real and imagined confrontations between Schwarz and superstar monologuist Spalding Gray. “[In] this hilarious mix of parody, homage, and autobiography [Schwarz] recounts the process of [his] disillusionment [with Gray]. Performed in the classic Gray style–Schwarz sits behind a nearly bare table, pitcher of water at hand, notebook open before him, small visual aid nearby–Stalking Spalding Gray is at once a fan’s diary…and a long, Spalding-esque, tragicomic account of Schwarz’s automobile accident during the 2001 Toronto film festival, an event that woke him up to his own life. Schwarz isn’t nearly as polished a performer as Gray–he fidgets, sometimes stutters, speaks too quickly or too slowly–but…he loves wringing laughs out of the pathetic realization that he’ll never be as at ease onstage as his idol. On the other hand, as long as he has a story worth telling, it doesn’t matter. In an age when we’re encouraged to believe that our own lives are less valuable than the lives of celebrities, Schwarz’s comical tale of self-discovery is definitely worth telling,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.