This annual 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 Rhino Fest, now in its 11th year, features shows by such local notables as Theater for the Age of Gold, the Billy Goat Experiment, Blair Thomas, Antonio Sacre (now based in LA, but returning for the festival), John Musial, Michael K. Meyers, and Theater Oobleck in addition to the Curious folks.

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs through October 14 at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln; additional performances take place September 12 through 27 at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs’ Storefront Theater, located in the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph. Admission to all shows is $10 or “pay what you can”; for information and reservations, call 773-327-6666.

Following is the schedule for September 14 through 21, based on information available Monday.


Loser’s Alias

The Curious Theatre Branch presents Bryn Magnus’s “action play” about a test of wills between a flamboyant wrestling promoter and a do-gooder trying to legitimize the sport by making it tame. The production, a revised version of one of the troupe’s early, seminal works of more than a decade ago, features puppets and live music by “mock-rock/grunge band” Family Problem. The original show “was one of . . . Magnus’s more confused epics, [but he] has heightened the emotional reality of his main characters and toned down the assaultive energy that overwhelmed his first production,” says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Carving Wood and Midwest Parking

The first play on this double bill is a comedy by Nicole Kupper about a woman obsessed with Ping-Pong and her relationship with her daughter and the daughter’s fiance; the second, presented by Cougar Cougar Productions, is a comedy by writer-director Mike Hansel. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.


Loser’s Alias

See listing for 7 PM Thursday, September 14. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Geek Love

Theater for the Age of Gold presents Jeff Dorchen and Jeff Kowalkowski’s musical version of Katherine Dunn’s book about a family of circus freaks. “[The] play all too faithfully presents a version of the world that’s rank, pointless, and repulsive. [The] question remains whether investing so much talent and creativity in this source constitutes an innovation or a mistake. At the very least, fans of the book . . . will want to see Geek Love. You may argue about it, but you can’t dismiss it,” says Reader critic Kelly Kleiman. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Something Made Up

Monologuist Barrie Cole tries her hand at playwriting with this tale of a woman and a man whose worldviews are altered by a book on ventriloquism and a bottle of oregano respectively. Directed by Cole and Eric Ziegenhagen, the production features Julie Caffey and Doug Stapleton. “Cole [offers] an interesting meditation . . . on a couple’s relationship to each other and to reality. . . . Though the production has been well paced and thoughtfully directed, . . . ultimately the play’s comedy, insight, and two top-notch performances don’t quite come together,” says Reader critic Kelly Kleiman. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.


Loser’s Alias

See listing for 7 PM Thursday, September 14. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Something Made Up

See listing for 10 PM Friday, September 15. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day

Director-designer-filmmaker John Musial’s multimedia exploration of the life and work of the famed Chicago novelist features performer Thom Cox and live jazz by Dave Pavkovic and Griffin Rodriguez. This performance is a preview of Lookingglass Theatre Company’s forthcoming production. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.

Ghetto Wrestling Alliance

As a complement to Loser’s Alias (see above), the Curious Theatre Branch presents a late-night program of “slambone hambone wrestlemania action” featuring teen wrestlers. Storefront Theater, 10 PM.



Michael Martin’s portrait of a group of cigarette addicts puffing away on the loading dock of an office building is presented by the Great Beast Theater. Lunar Cabaret, 3 PM.

Evening at Club Means

This “didactic cabaret in 17 scenes,” written and performed by Stephanie Kulke with the input of Jenny Magnus and director Kerstin Broockmann, finds a nightclub hostess recalling her German-American heritage. As “brassy, redheaded cabaret hostess Cleo Kessler,” Kulke “addresses her frustration with German-Americans and their work ethic but slights potentially interesting side issues [and] fails to be provocative or even particularly funny,” says Reader critic Jenn Goddu. Lunar Cabaret, 7 PM.

Scarlet Confessions: The Infamous and Innocent and Raven and Viola: The Tale of Two Sisters

Scarlet Confessions, Michael Smith and Jamie O’Reilly’s “folk theater cabaret,” explores carnal and spiritual themes as reflected in history, drama, and literature. The evening includes spoken and sung selections by George Bernard Shaw, Leonard Cohen, Dorothy Parker, Phil Ochs, and Cole Porter as well as Smith, O’Reilly, and Anne Hills, who also appears in the show along with Paul Amandes. Eric Ziegenhagen directs. The program’s curtain-raiser, Raven and Viola, is a Victorian-style puppet play by Jennifer Friedrich. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.


Scarlet Confessions: The Infamous and Innocent and Raven and Viola: The Tale of Two Sisters

See listing for 7 PM Sunday, September 17. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Until One Day I Run Out of Teeth and The Secret Thoughts of Clowns

The American Monster Theater presents two plays by Carey Friedman; the ensemble includes Lance Baker, Michael Stumm, and Kathleen Powers. “In Until One Day I Run Out of Teeth . . . Baker portrays David, an everyman in a bathtub who writes letters to the Congressman after he meets the man’s assistant, Mary, one day on the bus–an encounter that quickly turns into David’s spiritual rape at the hands of this femme fatale and her terminally ill boss. All this in 20 minutes. Baker illuminates the stage in this faint but potent burp of a work. . . . By contrast, the actors’ talents are wasted in The Secret Thoughts of Clowns, a mindlessly enthusiastic script about a man and a woman at odds in a hotel room,” says Reader critic Erik Piepenburg. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.


An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening

Theater Oobleck presents actor-playwright Mickle Maher’s new variation on the tale of the soul-selling seeker of knowledge. “Maher’s acting . . . reaches the same level of nuance and sophistication as his writing, albeit in an intentionally ham-handed way. He portrays Faust, the legendary Renaissance genius turned satanist, as a klutzy, bellicose, self-important buffoon trying to convince himself that he matters. . . . Maher’s ingenious twist on the legend is that Faust’s pact with the devil does not elevate him to a position of power, as it does in Marlowe’s and Goethe’s versions, but reduces him to utter irrelevance. . . . An Apology is rich in digression [and] forays into poetic meaninglessness, leaving a host of tantalizing, unresolved images to float over the Faust legend. Maher’s text–dense with poetic imagery and writerly intricacies–nevertheless plays beautifully,” said Reader critic Justin Hayford when he reviewed the show’s original run. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

See Critics Choice. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.


An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening

See listing for 7 PM Tuesday, September 19. Storefront Theater, 7 PM.


Karine Koret’s one-woman show is based on her grandmother’s account of life as a teenager in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. It’s presented by the Stillpoint Theater Collective. “Koret intersperses songs and humorous confessions with tales of her grandmother’s fear, fatigue, and fight to hold on–and [she] can be captivating retelling and reliving this engaging story. Unfortunately she can also shortchange it by not fully inhabiting the moment,” says Reader critic Jenn Goddu. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.


Loser’s Alias

See listing for 7 PM Thursday, September 14. Storefront Theater, 8 PM.

Carving Wood and Midwest Parking

See listing for 8 PM Thursday, September 14. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

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