Lawrence Steger visits Chicago stages with the brilliance and rarity of a comet. If you’re lucky you’ll catch sight of him once every few years, tearing through the postmodern vacuum of irony-laden autobiography, adding humor and pathos to a scene best known for its detached cynicism. But after years of quasi-confessional monologues Steger–like a comet in its final orbit–faced burnout. “I had no more truth to tell,” he says. Teaming up with fellow performance artists Douglas Grew and Laura Dame for his first ensemble piece, The Swans, he discovered new theatrical truths in lives other than his own. His first major work in almost five years, which originally played last summer, takes its inspiration from the lives of Gilles de Rais, a 15th-century French aristocrat infamous for his eroticized, elaborately planned murders of young boys, and “mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who spent the latter part of the 19th century constructing Wagnerian fantasy worlds for himself. Steger ingeniously brings these two near-mythical figures together in a deliciously indulgent cinematic fantasy about King Ludwig’s desperate attempts to commission an opera based on the life of de Rais. True to form, Steger and cast will appear for one night only before flying off to a four-night gig in Glasgow. You may have missed Kohoutek. Don’t make the same mistake with The Swans. Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 883-1090. Wednesday, September 27, 8 PM. $10.

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