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; in addition to the Curious folks, participating artists include Theater Oobleck, Jennifer Biddle LaFleur, Michael Meyers, Frank Melcori, Nomenil, Barrie Cole, TeenStreet, Blair Thomas, and many other ensembles and soloists. Taking its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s use of the term “rhinocerontic” (it means real big), the 12th annual Rhinofest runs through October 7. The following lists this week’s shows. Most performances take place at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln; the Free Street space at Pulaski Park, 1419 W. Blackhawk; and Link’s Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield. Additional venues employed for special events are listed below. Admission is $10 or “pay what you can”; for information and reservations, call 773-327-6666.


The Hunchback Variations and Tedium

Chicago’s experimental, directorless Theater Oobleck presents a double bill. The first depicts a panel discussion on sound between the deaf bell ringer of Notre Dame cathedral, Quasimodo, and the hearing-impaired composer Beethoven. “[The] piece begins as a postmodern parody of academic conferences and ends as a moving meditation on collaboration and the creative process,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. The second is a puppet play, created by playwright Mickle Maher and puppet designer Shoshanna Utchenik, about a small theater company whose terrible show turns into a surprise hit. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


The Hunchback Variations and Tedium

See listing for Thursday, September 13. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

Drowning of Thirst

Matthew Wilson directs his own script about a young psychic’s impact on a group of dysfunctional friends. The play “brandishes emptiness and disconnection at every turn, but in such a sketchily ponderous fashion that the void it maps seems to correspond solely to another in Wilson’s imagination. . . . I’d wager that this collection of tissue-paper silhouettes is meant to represent a generation’s alienation and emotional underdevelopment.

. . . Then again, it may just be about an insufferable bunch of losers. In any case Drowning of Thirst is underwritten, unconvincing, overlong, and trite. And . . . the slight staging merely emphasizes the play’s flimsiness,” says Reader critic Brian Nemtusak. Pulaski Park, 7 PM.


Peter Handler’s new dark comedy concerns two hucksters who hawk elaborate convenience services to car-bound motorists. The absurdist script’s “furious, fiendishly clever dialogue bears the marks of Stoppard and Albee, and [anyone] who’s spent any time in LA traffic . . . will recognize Handler’s premise, blown up to ridiculous proportions: that no driver ever reaches his or her destination. Life as lived in a box on wheels becomes a metaphor for the alienation produced by technology. . . . In Amy Ludwig’s crisp staging the actors give capable, engaging performances,” says Reader critic Brian Nemtusak. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.

Like Our Parents Smoking Cornsilk

The Nomenil collective, which specializes in comedy with a gay perspective, presents an encore production of this comedy by Courtney Evans and Allen Conkle. “Evans and Conkle create believable–if excessive–characters, developing a focused and intense idiocy that camps up [their] melodramatic stereotypes. . . . Nomenil’s dark, uneven, and entertaining aesthetic uses camp in the same way Antonin Artaud used abusive confrontation in his theater of cruelty. . . . The story . . . is nonsensical, the characters are almost universally unappealing, and the dialogue and situations are smart-assed and disorienting. But the show’s precise, high-energy farce and Saturday-morning-cartoon cheeriness coat the subversive, almost surreal bleakness with sugar, and the result is irresistible,” said Reader critic Carol Burbank when she reviewed the show’s original run. Pulaski Park, 9 PM.


Bantam Lightweight

This play by writer-director Shawn Reddy concerns two aging men preparing to entertain a gathering of old friends. Beau and Ned O’Reilly star in this Curious Theatre Branch production. “Reddy . . . has crafted a small gem–a funny, gently moving existential drama. The O’Reillys

. . . make what’s essentially 90 minutes of idle rumination accessible, engrossing, and often delightful,” says Reader critic Brian Nemtusak. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


See Critic’s Choice. Pulaski Park, 7 PM.

To Relax and Laugh

See review in this section. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.

The Martyr

Jennifer Biddle LaFleur’s comic monologue recounts the story of a woman’s search for spiritual glory via martyrdom. Jay Paul Skelton directs. Pulaski Park, 9 PM.


Feeling Sorry for Roman Polanski

See review in this section. Lunar Cabaret, 3 PM.

A Love Song to Life

World Enough & Time presents poets Carolyn Kelly Williams and Zoe Keithley and musician Kathy Kelley Hahn in a program of spoken word and music. Link’s Hall, 3 PM.

Bantam Lightweight

See listing for Saturday, September 15. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, lobby, 1650 N. Halsted, 4 PM.


See review in this section. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

More Stories

Poet John Starrs hosts and headlines a spoken-word series, with a different guest artist each week. The theme of tonight’s show is “More Neighborhood”; Joe Cardello also appears. Link’s Hall, 7 PM.


Two Fools Gold

Paul Amandes’s comedy concerns the adventures of four pals who strike gold. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


The Green Cricket and Braising

See review in this section. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


The Bubonic Homunculus

The Drain presents John Hannon’s sci-fi comedy about the sole survivor of a viral holocaust. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.


The Hunchback Variations and Tedium

See listing for Thursday, September 13. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.