Rhinoceros Theater Festival

This annual showcase of experimental theater, performance, and music from Chicago’s fringe began as part of the Bucktown Arts Fest; now it’s hosted 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 celebrates its tenth anniversary with shows by such local notables as Theater for the Age of Gold, Lucky Pierre, Plasticene, Cin Salach and Ten Tongues, Antonio Sacre, the Penlight Theater, and members of the Neo-Futurists and Theater Oobleck, as well as the Curious cabal. Also taking part is the Theater im Quadrat from Halle, Germany.

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs through October 2 at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln, 773-327-6666; admission is $10 or “pay what you can,” except where noted below. Following is the schedule for September 9 through 16, based on information available Monday.


Cows and Bury the Dog

The first of these two one-acts is written by Mike Hansel and directed by Eric Ziegenhagen for Cougar Cougar Productions. The second is “a short little thing” written by Salem Collo-Julin and performed by the Drama Club. 8 PM.


The Problematic Cartoonist

Writer-actor Jeff Dorchen “weaves a caustic tale of a self-indulgent New Yorker cartoonist locked in battle with a self-righteous critic/fan whose loudmouth daughter suffers from a rare condition that causes her bones to outgrow her body. Dorchen [is] one of the few playwrights in town who could bring such disparate strands together into a compelling and meaningful narrative,” says Reader critic Justin Hayford of this Theater for the Age of Gold presentation. 8 PM.

The Lucky Ones

Jenny Magnus’s new play, presented by the Curious Theatre Branch under Hallie Gordon’s direction, concerns “the end of things, and what we get when we get there.” The cast includes Magnus, Beau O’Reilly, and Paul Leisen. “Program notes hint that Magnus’s play is a sort of love letter to her father and his now contemplative approach to life; this much is conveyed in the carefully crafted performances. But the script poses a fair number of perplexing questions, and answers too many of them with more questions. Magnus’s previous works have featured elliptical dialogue and Beckett-like wordplay, but this piece is missing some of the grand peaks and valleys of earlier efforts,” says Reader critic Nick Green. 10 PM.


In the Wreckage

Playwright-director Matthew Wilson, known for his live monologues Friday nights on WZRD, teams up with fellow former Thunder Road Ensemble members Amy Eaton, Deborah King, and Daniel Taube to premiere Wilson’s new play. Presented by Hysteria Productions, it’s composed of three seemingly independent narratives whose subjects range from an unexpected encounter between old acquaintances to a car crash. “In the Wreckage is [Wilson’s] first attempt at playwriting, and it shows. . . . Wilson does an excellent job of establishing common themes among the five individual components of this production. And the cast . . . does a solid job of bringing to life Wilson’s tales about the desperation of everyday existence. . . . But despite their best efforts, In the Wreckage falls too often into one-sidedness,” says Reader critic Nick Green. 8 PM.


Joe Whyte’s tale of a small-town Nebraska family explores themes of “love, brotherhood, and domestic terrorism.” 10 PM.


Facts and Figures

The Penlight Theater presents Eric Ziegenhagen’s new work, a two-person drama about long-distance telephone conversations between a traveling management consultant and her boyfriend. “Ziegenhagen’s naturalistic script . . . doesn’t offer many surprises. . . . But for this playwright the ends aren’t nearly as important as the means: ultimately it’s [his] direction . . . that makes Facts and Figures stand out. [His] minimalist lighting design [is] a simple but powerful choice: short of having his actors phone in their performances, [he] could not have come closer to staging actual phone conversations. . . . In the hands of a less accomplished pair of actors, the tightly wound Facts and Figures might have unraveled into another tedious exercise in one-dimensional performance. But part of what makes the script so convincing is the remarkable chemistry between John Roberts and Anne Fogarty,” says Reader critic Nick Green. 3 PM.


The Lucky Ones

See listing for Friday, September 10. 8 PM.


The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris, Labeled “Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. Ever! Or I’ll Sue! I’ll Sue From the Grave!!!”

Greg Allen, Danny Thompson, and Ben Schneider team up for this parody-homage to the late, great playwright. 8 PM.


Cows and Bury the Dog

See listing for Thursday, September 9. 8 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): The Lucky Ones theater still by Chris Dimock.