What started as a performance component of the Bucktown Arts Fest has taken on a life of its own: this is the fifth annual incarnation of the Rhino Fest, whose name is inspired by surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s use of the term “rhinocerontic” (it means real big). Organized this year by Beau O’Reilly, Michael Martin, and Colm O’Reilly, who have endeavored to combine a broad scope and a cutting-edge sensibility, the event showcases some 25 individuals and ensembles (plus several bands), including well-known folks like Jenny Magnus, Theater Oobleck, Paula Killen, Marc Smith, the Curious Theatre Branch, John Starrs, David Hernandez, Splinter Group, Frank Melcori, Redmoon Theater, and New Crime Productions.

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival runs through September 4 at the Curious Theatre Branch, 1836 W. North; Splinter Group Studio, 1937 W. Division; and Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. Except where noted in the listings below, the phone number for all Rhino Fest information is 384-2241. Tickets (except in special cases noted in the listings) are $7 per program or $10 for any two programs. In addition, the Bucktown Arts Fest offers free theatrical performances Saturday-Sunday, August 27 and 28, at the Holstein Park field house, 2200 N. Oakley; call 489-4662 for details on the free shows.

The Reader carries festival listings on a week-by-week basis, based on updated information available Monday; following is the Rhino Fest schedule for August 26 through September 1 and the Bucktown Arts Fest schedule for this weekend.


And God Said to Abraham

Playwright-director Scott Turner offers a contemporary twist on the biblical story. “Turner . . . reworks, often hilariously, the Old Testament tale of Abraham and Sarah . . . [until it starts] foundering under the weight of its rhapsody and incoherence, its obscure rhetoric and impenetrable mythmaking. . . . Turner has always had a gift for pungent, Shepard-taut dialogue in which thoughts quickly vault into emotions. But here that baroque intensity serves a plot whose private meanings defy the audience. This production is all the more frustrating because Turner’s staging is superbly orchestrated,” said Reader critic Lawrence Bommer when he reviewed the show’s premiere earlier this summer. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.

Rational Malaise

Kathleen Ross’s collection of short plays and monologues addresses such subjects as matching ads, teen lust, and metaphysical mind games at a wedding reception. “Ross has a refreshingly light touch. She’s not didactic, nor does she feed her ideas too easily to her audience. . . . Each of these short pieces seems like it could be a scene in a larger, more satisfying play,” said Reader critic Maura Troester when she reviewed the show’s premiere earlier this season. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism

Writer-performer Paula Killen, violin virtuoso Miriam Sturm, and filmmaker Katy Maguire collaborate on Disgraceful Productions’s “celebration of the dawning of a new age of femininity,” which interweaves three narratives to depict the relationship among three women. “Friends With Fire Arms: A Farewell to Feminism is an entertaining evening [with] great potential, provided the story is tightened up and Killen finds some silent places within her monologue. Particularly brilliant is Killen’s understanding of the insidious power of popular culture’s concept of feminist, emancipated women of the 70s,” says Reader critic Carmela Rago. Chicago Filmmakers, 8 PM. $10; call 384-5533 for reservations.

New Crime Productions

“What are the New Criminals up to this time?” That question wasn’t resolved as of press time, so call this show “TBA.” Polly Noonan directs the troupe whose sometimes terrific shows are known for their brash mix of commedia dell’arte and punkish postmodernism. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.

Foot Notes Boot Licks Toe Jams

David Isaacson, best known for the witty, well-educated explorations of popular and high culture he’s written for Theater Oobleck (The Making of Freud), offers an evening of self-written solo performance under Oobleck’s auspices. The program includes: “Havel/Bickle,” which posits an encounter between an eastern European artist-politician and a dangerous New York taxi driver; “Bull/Krupp,” which traces the philosophical lineage of Nazi Germany’s arms-manufacturing dynasty to the American inventor of Iraq’s never-completed supergun; and “Minutes,” in which Isaacson ruminates on his day job as a “paid social activist.” Curious Theatre Branch, 10:30 PM. $7, or “pay what you can.” (Reviewed this week in Section One.)


Ulrike Meinhof

“Just call it Chicago’s first dance/theater piece about a German radical,” says writer-director Warren Leming, a longtime presence on Chicago’s experimental and improvisational theater and avant-garde rock scenes, about this Chicago Cabaret Ensemble presentation. Bucktown Arts Fest, Holstein Park field house, 1:30 PM. Free; call 489-4662.

Ah Me, Oh My

Jenny Magnus’s solo show is described as “not much more than a bunch of songs performed alone, without visible accompaniment.” Bucktown Arts Fest, Holstein Park field house, 3:30 PM. Free; call 489-4662.


In this coproduction of Theatre Wyrzuc and Steel Productions, seen earlier this year at Cafe Voltaire, “a young woman talks about recovering from the trauma of rape . . . by joining up with a traveling show that features women dressed in gorilla suits wrestling in giant fruit pies.

. . . [The] delicate imagery of Brian Gary Kirst’s script and Tina Steele’s robustly kinetic delivery–assisted by several Emil Nolde-inspired masks and a few Mummenschanz-like props–make it all seem as plausible as it is entertaining,” says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

And God Said to Abraham

See listing for Friday, August 26. Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.


“Doorika, Chicago’s true champions of the avant-garde, have consistently thrown theatrical logic to the wind in their highly inventive and suggestive theater pieces. . . . Their latest offering–Throes, the second part of a trilogy called Saajury–is perhaps their least logical. Director Erika Yeomans has staged most of the piece in the nebulous cement gulf between audience and stage, that no-man’s land where directing professors have traditionally warned their students never to set foot. While the choice is partly based on practical considerations, . . . placing the piece in this theatrical wasteland accentuates its themes of aimlessness and despair. . . . Inspired by Nagisa Oshima’s 1960 film Cruel Story of Youth (in several scenes, verbatim transcriptions of the film’s subtitles are accompanied by ridiculous stylized gestures) and Shintaro Ishihara’s nihilistic novel Season of Violence, Doorika’s piece at once lampoons the melodrama of its sources and elevates their core sense of emptiness and longing. . . . Throes is a work in progress, but its thematic complexity and sheer audacity make it well worth seeing despite its rough edges,” says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Chicago Filmmakers, 8 and 10 PM.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

The Dolphinback theater company, which just celebrated its first birthday last month, offers a work in progress based on the Santa Claus myth. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.

Betty’s Mouth and Marianne Fieber

Performance poets Cindy Salach and Sheila Donohue of Betty’s Mouth display their style of “vocal choreography” in I’m a Stranger Here, Myself, while Fieber performs her one-woman show Under the Hat, seen earlier this season at the Curious Theatre Branch, in which she portrays different characters by changing her chapeau. Curious Theatre Branch, 10:30 PM.

The Handsome Family, Joe, and The Bitter Pills

Three bands play live music. Chicago Filmmakers, 11 PM (showtime approximate following Throes). $5.


Quintron–Music for One Contraption

A one-man band performs on orchestral timpani, a washing-machine basin, a water-bottle xylophone, and various other homemade electronic and percussion instruments while also producing various vocal sounds through a 26-inch metal megaphone. Bucktown Arts Fest, Holstein Park field house, 1:30 PM. Free; call 489-4662.


Chay Yew’s one-act concerns a gay Asian youth suspected of murder in London’s East End. “Taut and troubling, this extraordinary ‘voice play’ . . . is stunningly staged by Jay Paul Skelton,” says Reader critic Lawrence Bommer of this Eclipse Theatre Company production. Bucktown Arts Fest, Holstein Park field house, 3:30 PM. Free; call 489-4662.

Julie Laffin, Amy Ludwig, Rennie Sparks

See Critic’s Choice. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Douglas Grew and Frank Melcori

Normally seen in their own one-man shows, Grew and Melcori team up for The 84,000 Human Agonies, about two monks whose separate paths lead them from “the cheap sex and squalor of modern life to the clear snow Zen mountains of Korea.” Curious Theatre Branch, 8 PM.

Redmoon Theater

Playwright-director Blair Thomas’s company, noted for its use of puppetry, masks, and pageantry, performs the second part of its ongoing adaptation of Moby Dick. Playwright Jeff Dorchen and composer Michael Zerang collaborated on this episode, drawn from chapters 84 to 123 of the classic novel. Just the thing to see if you just haven’t had time to pick the book up lately. Chicago Filmmakers, 8 PM.


Redmoon Theater

See listing for Sunday, August 28. Chicago Filmmakers, 8 PM.


Marc Smith and

John Starrs & David Hernandez

Poetry-slam pioneer Smith offers My Father’s Coat, a program of poems, stories, and monologues, while veteran street poets Starrs and Hernandez team up for The John & David Show. Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.


Theater for the Age of Gold

Jeff Dorchen and a “mystery guest” perform a series of short two-character plays Dorchen wrote, including “Prologue to Earth Be Damned,” “The Atrocity,” “Ventriloquist One,” “One Day in Germany,” and “Allegory of French Involvement in the Indochinese Opium Trade.” Splinter Group Studio, 8 PM.

Ah Me, Oh My

See listing for Saturday, August 27. Splinter Group Studio, 10 PM.