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Science, Boobs And Mind-Readers: Fringe Fest Releases This Year's Lineup

By Alex Nitkin | August 16, 2017 8:26am

CHICAGO — The Chicago Fringe Festival is weird on purpose.

The theater bonanza overtaking Jefferson Park from Aug. 30-Sept. 10 sets its roster of 50 plays through a random lottery and doesn't screen them, leaving a smorgasbord of outside-the-box and sometimes hotly controversial shows.

But the randomized approach also creates a hugely varied performance list that "appeals to a wide range of people," festival director Anne Cauley said.

"I would challenge everyone to try and find something that appeals to them," Cauley said.

From stand-up comedy to historical retellings and sci-fi fantasies, the lineup includes just about everything that could be considered "theater."

The producer of each show posted a brief description and age rating on the Fringe website. Tickets are available online. There is a $5 button required for the festival and single show admission is $10. Discounts are available if ticket packages for multiple shows are bought.

Hard-Core Corn

This one-woman show centers on an "uncontrollable food addict" whose "life is about to get flipped upside down after she meets a nutrition guru," its description reads. "Find out what happens when Kelly navigates a maze of maize — through hilarious newscasts, cooking shows and personal confessions — in a world turned against her."

Rated PG, "Hard-Core Corn" will run three times at the Windy City Theatre Black Box Studio, 5340 W. Lawrence Ave.

[Hard-Core Corn]

Mark Toland: Mind-reader

In a five-time festival award-winning show, Toland "brilliantly combines comedy, magic and even a splash of philosophy," according to one reviewer.

"The audience is the cast, your thoughts are his props, and your mind is his stage," the description reads.

Toland rates his show PG-13 for "language I wouldn't use in front of my mother."

The show will run seven times at Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.

[Mark Toland]

30JJ or Bust: The World Is My Underwire

This play is described as "the true story of one woman’s attempts to share what she has learned, and still needs to learn, about navigating through the world alongside her 30JJ bra size."

The show is rated PG-13 for "depictions of drinking onstage."

Five performances will be staged at the Windy City Theatre Black Box Studio.

[30JJ or bust]

Brian Malow: Just Add Gravity

Describing himself as a "science comedian," Brian Malow "will make you laugh and think as he wheels his comic vision from the Big Bang to dinosaurs to leaves of grass," according to his show's description.

"By the end of the hour, you’ll have a new appreciation for gravity ... And you’ll never look at birds the same way again," it continues.

The show will run five times at Congregational Church of Jefferson Park.

[Brian Malow]

That's Weird, Grandma

Describing itself as an arts education theater ensemble, the group Barrel of Monkeys performs a weekly variety show of songs and sketches written entirely by Chicago Public Schools students.

The group describes its show as "touching and poignant," appealing to kids and adults alike.

The performance will show three times at Jefferson Playhouse, 4766 N. Milwaukee Ave., as part of the Kids Fringe festival.

[Barrel of Monkeys]

Fight for 52¢

This one-man show tells the true story of the American labor leader V.R. Dunne, who led Minneapolis truck drivers on a strike in 1934.

The show "is presented as Dunne himself addressing a group of young people in 1969 on the 35th anniversary" of the strike, according to its description.

Rated PG, "Fight for 52¢" will run three times at the Windy City Theatre Black Box Studio, 5340 W. Lawrence Ave.

[Fight for 52¢]

Even God Knew I Was Gay

Standup comedian Jiberto Soto "will reveal the struggles of the gay dating scene for a Catholic Mexican," according to the show description.

"His sexual and racial comic style has been described as personal yet embarrassing, by his older brother," it continued.

The show is rated R for strong language. It will show three performances at the Windy City Theatre Blackbox Studio.

[Jiberto Soto]