Six To Watch at the Chicago Fringe Festival

The Chicago Fringe Festival begins tomorrow at a variety of venues in the Pilsen neighborhood, starting a 10-day celebration of comedy, experimental theatre, movement, spoken word and lots of things weird and wonderful. Fringe can be a bit hit-or-miss, and not everything on the roster sounds like a winner, but there are plenty of intriguing shows to check out. Here are a few on the schedule that seemed worth at least checking out.

Handshake Uppercut (Jay Dunn & John Leo – 8/30, 9/1, 9/2, 9/3, 9/6, 9/8, 9/9)

Festivalgoers looking for a more traditional (a bit of an oxymoron as it may be) fringe experience may find it with Brooklynites Jay Dunn and John Leo, who have been lauded for their fringe performances at notable ‘fests such as San Francisco and Edinburgh. Their silent slapstick show, “Handshake Uppercut,” centers on two “gentleman brawlers” who fight on through the ages, saying nary a word but speaking volumes through the art of physical comedy. The silent stuff isn’t for everyone, but if you’re here for something different, this is one to consider.

Pink Milk (White Elephant – 8/31, 9/1, 9/2, 9/3, 9/7, 9/8, 9/9)

Evanston, Ill.-based troupe White Elephant presents a highly physical, movement-based work about the life and work of persecuted genius Alan Turing with electronic music and rather surreal plot points (“Snow White runs through a forest,” “A talking glass of milk kills his lover, Christopher.”). Turing is one of the 20th century’s most fascinating and underexplored figures, giving the troupe plenty of rich material to work with.

OCCUPY THIS! Tales of An Accidental Activist (Reverend Nuge – 9/7, 9/8 and 9/9)

Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement have been noted in the past for the intriguing street-theatre aspects of the protests. Now, the theatre aspect of the protest is explored in a show from comedian Tommy Nugent, a.k.a. Reverend Nuge, who came to Zuccotti Park and Occupy Detroit intending just to carry funny signs and make some people laugh, but his involvement began to run deeper than that. Feelings toward the Occupy movement may be mixed, but a firsthand and comic account of it should lead to some interesting discussion. And you’ve got to love a performance that gets people talking.

Put It In The Scrapbook (George Contini, 8/30,9/1, 9/2, 9/6, 9/7, 9/8, 9/9)

In a production combining elements of multi-media, drag and burlesque, George Contini meditates on the life and work of performer and female impersonator Julian Eltinge, an icon of stage and screen, particularly Vaudeville. Contini combines Eltinge’s original routines with rare actual footage for what should be a complex portrait and discussion of what it means to perform.

Modal Kombat (Modal Kombat – 9/7, 9/8, 9/9)

If South Park and certain particularly stagnant weekends with our exes during our undergraduate years have proved anything, it’s that there are few things more soul-crushingly boring than watching other people play Guitar Hero or its various similar incarnations. But what Modal Kombat has done actually sounds kind of cool, taking the video game battle and using actual guitars as controllers for an interactive musical experience.

Storms Under Her Skin (Rebecca Kling – 8/30, 9/1, 9/2, 9/3, 9/6, 9/8, 9/9)

The Chicago Tribune has praised spoken-word and performance artist Rebecca Kling and her exploration of transgender identity, physicality of gender and the complications of having “to pick one” and “getting it right.” 

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