Mark Toland at last year's Fringe Fest Credit: Ari Craven

In its ninth year, the Chicago Fringe Festival shrinks from two weeks to one. Time will tell if this is a meaningful return to its roots (the first ran for only five days), a temporary aberration, or a harbinger of its imminent demise.

The fest has always been a crapshoot, largely because artists earn slots by lottery. Organizers trumpet this approach as “an absolute democracy,” but it means the performers got on stage not by skill or artistry but pure luck. In addition, past lineups have favored wacky and oddball over progressive and challenging, making the whole affair feel relatively insubstantial.

Still, walking around Jefferson Park on a summer evening is pleasant, the shows are short, and several look promising:

Mrs. Wrights Jenni Reinke, cofounder of Milwaukee’s Quasimondo Physical Theatre, performs her solo dance-theater piece about the women left behind after Frank Lloyd Wright’s death. Reinke is precise, captivating, and unafraid of humor.

Hildegard of Bingen Musical Glenview’s With a Machete Productions debuts its tuneful take on the 12th-century mystic, composer, and natural scientist, written by the duo behind the company’s catchy Church of Modern Love.

I Know It Was the Blood Whip-smart Cincinnati historian and musician Tara Lake tackles growing up African-American in New Jersey in the late 20th century.

Settle This Thing In 2012, Canadian husband-and-wife comedians Tamara Bick and Drew Antzis started making droll YouTube videos, inviting viewers to vote on their petty and profound marital disputes. Exercise your franchise in their live version.   v