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7 best bets for the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival

Written by
Kris Vire

The eighth annual Chicago Fringe Festival opens August 30 at various venues in Jefferson Park. With 50 different performances on offer, all chosen by lottery rather than curated by a jury, it can be tough to gauge what’s what, but I’ve pored over the descriptions to make some educated guesses about seven shows you should see if you’re feeling fringe-y.

Dandy Darkly’s Myth Mouth! New York neo-vaudevillian storyteller and Edinburgh Fringe vet Dandy Darkly (the alter ego of performer Neil Arthur James) makes his first Chicago appearance with this solo piece that touches on religious extremism, social media addiction and celebrity worship. Congregational Church of Jefferson Park. Aug 31 at 10pm; Sept 1 at 7pm; Sept 2 at 10pm; Sept 3 at 1pm; Sept 4 at 2:30pm; Sept 7, 8 at 8:30pm.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon Brooklyn-based storyteller Didrik Söderström performs a one-man adaptation of this Scandinavian folk tale about a young woman journeying to the four corners of the Earth to rescue a lost love, using a loop machine to layer vocals and sound effects. Jefferson Playhouse. Aug 31 at 7pm; Sept 1 at 10pm; Sept 2 at 5:30pm; Sept 3, 4 at 8:30pm.

Mark Toland
Mark Toland
Photograph courtesy Mark Toland

Mark Toland: Mind Reader Chicago-based mentalist Toland, billed as the most-booked mind reader in the U.S. and Canada, blends psychic feats with accomplished storytelling in his Fringe show. Congregational Church of Jefferson Park. Aug 31 at 10pm; Sept 1 at 8:30pm; Sept 2 at 7pm; Sept 3 at 5:30pm; Sept 4 at 2:30pm; Sept 9 at 8pm; Sept 10 at 4pm.

Mistero Buffo Greek actor Panos Vlahos’s performance of Dario Fo’s subversive take on the Last Supper and other religious touchstones comes to Chicago direct from this summer’s Hollywood Fringe, where it was chosen for an encore run; it was also named Best Physical Theater Show at 2016’s United Solo Theater Festival in New York. Windy City Music Theatre. Sept 8 at 7pm; Sept 9 at 5:30pm; Sept 10 at 2:30pm.

mOTHER Pittsburgh writer-performer Stacey Vespaziani performs a solo piece about the social stigma of being childless by choice as a woman in America. Congregational Church of Jefferson Park. Aug 31 at 8:30pm; Sept 1 at 10pm; Sept 2 at 5:30pm; Sept 3 at 7pm; Sept 4 at 4pm.

Photograph: Mikki Schaffner

Murmurations Need some respite from solo performances? Check out this ensemble piece from nascent Chicago troupe Semi-Circus, which uses physical theater and circus arts in a theatrical exploration of mental health. Congregational Church of Jefferson Park. Sept 8 at 7pm; Sept 9 at 2:30pm; Sept 10 at 5:30pm.

Work to Be Done Engagingly eggheady Chicago performer Andy Monson investigates the costs of creativity in this new solo piece from Spartan Theatre Company. Jefferson Playhouse. Sept 1 at 7pm; Sept 3 at 5:30pm; Sept 9 at 8:30pm.

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