The Rhinoceros Theater Festival

Founded as a component of the Bucktown Arts Fest but now independent of that event, this annual summer showcase of fringe theater, performance, and music has relocated farther north over the past few years. This year’s edition, which runs through September 23, is housed at the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln, and the Famous Door Theatre Company, Jane Addams Center Hull House, 3212 N. Broadway. Directed this year by Beau O’Reilly, the event takes its name from surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s use of the term “rhinocerontic” (it means real big); more than 20 companies and individual artists are featured, among them Famous Door, the Curious Theatre Branch, Retro Theatre, Theater Oobleck, Betty’s Mouth, Ler Noot Fiesta, Studio 108, David Hauptschein, Terri Kapsalis, Frank Melcori, Julie Laffin, David Kodeski, Warren Leming’s Cold Chicago Dance Theater, and Cleveland’s New World Performance Laboratory.

Rhino Fest tickets cost $7 per program or $10 for any two programs, except for special events whose prices are noted in the listings. For reservations and information, call 327-6666 for shows at Lunar Cabaret or 409-3884 for shows at Famous Door.

The Reader lists festival schedules (which are subject to last-minute change) on a week-by-week basis; following is the schedule for September 5 through 12.


David Kodeski’s True Life Tales: Doris

In this one-man show, Kodeski recounts the long life of a minister’s wife, based on anecdotes he gleaned from interviews with the woman (who now lives in a local retirement home). “Performing in a style that’s the very antithesis of drag–sans wig, falsetto, and stereotyped feminine gestures–Kodeski is nevertheless remarkably affecting,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

An Evening at the Caffe Cino III

The Retro Theatre Company performs two short plays by writers associated with the landmark off-off-Broadway theater of the 60s: Robert Patrick’s Camera Obscura and John Guare’s A Day for Surprises. Also on the bill is a new work by Retro member Sara Reily, My Sister’s Waltz, about the complex relationships of three sisters. “Retro’s attempt to ‘capture the spirit of past ages’ . . . confuses nostalgic simulacrum with art. . . . Steve Reily’s mountings of [the] two insubstantial Cino one-acts . . . are tame and conventional, [and the] one original piece . . . is as dry and stiff as 30-year-old bread,” says Reader critic Justin Hayford. Famous Door, 8 PM.


Kingerera Great

Peter Handler wrote this “absurdist hostage drama” about a “marginally-employed” young man who kidnaps a homeless person in order to have a playmate for the afternoon. Joe Dempsey directs a world premiere. Famous Door, 7 PM. (See review in Section One.)

Hyperbolic Gangland

The Curious Theatre Branch presents Bryn Magnus’s collection of “dreamscape examinations of pop-life violence and its real-live effects.” Jenny Magnus directs. “The two very short one-acts that make up the first part of Hyperbolic Gangland are . . . carefully written, . . . gracefully directed, . . . and finely acted. . . . Unfortunately, the last third . . . needs much more work before it’s fit for public consumption,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

Maureen Ryan directs Vaclav Havel’s absurdist farce about an intellectual being driven mad by sexual and political complications. “What makes [the] play more than just another witty satire about a bankrupt social system is the work’s extraordinary cubist structure. . . . A mind-bending way to tell a story, but it makes perfectly clear the unnatural world Havel’s characters inhabit. . . . Ryan’s production more or less successfully re-creates Havel’s crazy universe,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Famous Door, 9 PM.

Lip Trips & Jello

Cin Salach and Sheila Donahue, aka Betty’s Mouth, perform an evening of a cappella rhythm poetry. Lunar Cabaret, 10 PM.


This klezmer band headlines a farewell party for playwright-actor Jeff Dorchen, who’s leaving Chicago. Lunar Cabaret, 11 PM.

Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

Todd Petersen stars in his own one-man play about an actor’s progression from show-offy toddler to middle-aged gay man. Patrick New directs. “At 45 minutes Me, Me, Me, Me, Me! is not exactly overdeveloped, but it’s a sweet-tempered look at the discontinuities that together forge a personality. . . . Ultimately Petersen’s charm and honesty negate the familiarity and sentimentality of his show,” says Reader critic Lawrence Bommer. Famous Door, 11 PM.


Kingerera Great

See listing for Friday, September 6. Famous Door, 7 PM.

The Letters Show

“Chicago-based writer David Hauptschein is a man obsessed by ‘nontraditional texts,’ . . . [and] since 1986 it’s been his mission to show other people how daring, insightful, imaginative, and entertaining these writings can be,” says Reader critic Jack Helbig of this periodic open-mike event. Audience members are invited to bring correspondence they’ve written, received, or found and read from them in public. The readings will be recorded and edited for broadcast on the public-radio program This American Life, whose host Ira Glass co-hosts this performance with Hauptschein. There is a time limit of five minutes per reader; performance skills “are definitely not required,” says a press release. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM. Persons wishing to read should make reservations by calling 327-6666 (no other reservations will be taken for this performance).

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 6. Famous Door, 9 PM.

Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

See listing for Friday, September 6. Famous Door, 11 PM.


The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

See listing for Friday, September 6. Famous Door, 7 PM.

The Letters Show

See listing for Saturday, September 7. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.


Hyperbolic Gangland

See listing for Friday, September 6. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Grandmother in Four Acts, The Dusky Woman, and Excuse Me, What Are You?

This program features three solo performances. The first, by Donna Jay Fulks, concerns “the realization of death and the fact that I’m stuck in my stupid family,” says the artist. In the second, Judith Greer performs her Connected Poems and new works. The third piece is a multimedia solo performance by director-writer Lisa Wax (created in collaboration with Achy Obejas and Kurt Heintz) that explores “how race and culture are constructed and perceived.” Famous Door, 8 PM. (See review elsewhere in this section.)


Ler Noot Fiesta

This “jazz-thrash duo,” consisting of Mark Comiskey and Colm O’Reilly, headlines an evening of performance with guest artists from other fields. Tonight’s show features Diane Izzo. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.


Claretta Petacci, Mussolini’s Mistress

Monologuist Frank Melcori’s new show, performed with Amy Warren, is based on the correspondence between Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his lover. This work-in-progress seeks to explore “the almost operatic (and ultimately, operatically tragic) nature of their regard for each other [and] the devotion a leader can demand, and sometimes get, from his followers.” Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

Bobo’s Revenge

This “circus-noir” play by Paul C. Foster, about a detective investigating the serial killings of clowns, explores themes of violence and laughter. It’s offered by Faboo! Productions. “Bobo’s Revenge, with an intricate plot and nearly two hours of dialogue dense with allusions, . . . is sometimes obscured by its slapdash clutter, but there’s no denying the intelligence and compassion beneath the surface silliness,” said Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge when she reviewed the show’s premiere earlier this year. Famous Door, 8 PM.

I Am a Fool

Studio 108 presents Mike Vieau in his adaptation of Sherwood Anderson’s short story about a horse trainer ruined by his own good intentions. “Anderson’s 1923 tale about a young stable hand who lies about his origins to impress a girl is as quaint and sentimental as any yarn of its period. But . . . Vieau’s adaptation remains true to that time, [and Vieau] delivers the character’s homespun philosophies . . . with an earnestness that forces us to take [the work] seriously,” says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. Lunar Cabaret, 9 PM.


David Kodeski’s True Life Tales: Doris

See listing for Thursday, September 5. Lunar Cabaret, 8 PM.

An Evening at the Caffe Cino III

See listing for Thursday, September 5. Famous Door, 8 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo from “Bobo’s Revenge”.