Chicago Fringe Festival 2013: Best bets

Valerie Hager in Naked in Alaska

Valerie Hager in Naked in Alaska Photograph: Marisa Bramwell

Opening for its fourth year this week, the Chicago Fringe Festival moves from Pilsen to Jefferson Park, with 50 shows occupying multiple pop-up stages (all with food-related names for some reason) as well as the Gift Theatre, plus special events at "Fringe Central," a.k.a. Fischman Liquors & Tavern.

With its slots filled by lottery—25 from the Chicago area and 25 from around the country, many of which spend the summer touring the fringe-fest circuit—the Fringe is by nature a hit-or-miss affair. But with a small price of admission (a one-time charge of $5 to purchase an admission button plus $10 single tickets, with multi-show packages available at a discount) and low investment of time (shows are strictly limited to an hour or less), it can be worth taking a risk in search of something great. I've selected a few of the pieces that seem most promising; check out the complete lineup and schedule at

Anonymously Yours Performers turn Craigslist personals into monologues that go for poignancy as much as easy laughs in this piece, returning for a repeat performance. Hold the Pickles Stage (5320 W Giddins Ave, basement). Aug 31 at 8:30pm; Sept 1 at 2:30pm; Sept 2 at 4pm; Sept 5 at 10pm; Sept 6 at 8:30pm; Sept 7 at 10pm; Sept 8 at 5:30pm.

Caged In Beloved lunatic actor Nicolas Cage finds himself competing with his own clone for the affections of Lisa Marie Presley in this comedy from Inappropriate Theatre Company. Spilled Milk Stage (5320 W Giddings Ave, upstairs gymnasium). Aug 29 at 8:30pm; Aug 31 at 10pm; Sept 2 at 5:30pm.

Get Ready for the Vagina Fairy Chicago-based transgender performer and educator Rebecca Kling has had a new solo piece in each of the Chicago Fringe Festival's four years, and her work relates her experiences with gender identity charmingly and compellingly. PB&J Stage (5338 W Lawrence Ave). Aug 29 at 10pm; Aug 31 at 1pm; Sept 1 at 4pm; Sept 2 at 7pm; Sept 6 at 8:30pm; Sept 7 at 7pm; Sept 8 at 5:30pm.

Heart in a Cage In Chicago playwright Joe Wescott's monologue, performed by actor Andy Monson, a mixed martial-arts fighter describes how a mushroom trip with a training partner went very, very bad. PB&J Stage. Aug 31 at 7pm; Sept 2 at 2:30pm; Sept 7 at 8:30pm.

Lil' Women—A Rap Musical Yes, it's the March sisters set to a hip-hop beat, but it's no joke. The Orlando Sentinel praised the show's fidelity to its source in its 2012 appearance at the Orlando Fringe, saying it "audaciously mashes together elements of the book’s original 19th Century backdrop with outrageous rhyme-spitting production numbers." Spilled Milk Stage. Aug 29 at 7pm; Sept 1 at 4pm; Sept 2 at 8:30pm.

Love. Guts. High School. Solo performer Jeanette Bonner dissects the treacherous landscape of teenage dating by looking back at her own crush, "Gabe," and his effect on her adolescent identity. The Gift Theatre (4802 N Milwaukee Ave). Sept 5, 7 at 8:30pm; Sept 8 at 5:30pm.

Naked in Alaska Writer-performer Valerie Hager's solo play is a "surprisingly complex and personal story of one woman’s ups and downs as an exotic dancer in the not-so-sexy Last Frontier state," according to Time Out New York's review of the show at the New York International Fringe Festival earlier this month. The Gift Theatre. Aug 30 at 8:30pm; Aug 31 at 5:30pm; Sept 2 at 7pm.

Over There British playwright Mark Ravenhill's short play, which examines the division of postwar Germany via the metaphor of twin brothers separated by the Berlin Wall, was described by The Guardian critic Michael Billington as "fantastically clever and ingenious" in its 2009 Royal Court debut. The Empty Theatre's Fringe production is reportedly the piece's second-ever. The Gift Theatre. Aug 31 at 8:30pm; Sept 1 att 10pm; Sept 2 at 5:30pm; Sept 6 at 7pm; Sept 7 at 2:30pm.

Your Move A board game turns personal for a group of friends in Alberto Mendoza's new play, produced by Chicago's Abraham Werewolf. Hold the Pickles Stage. Aug 30 at 7pm; Sept 1 at 5:30pm; Sept 2 at 10pm; Sept 5 at 7pm; Sept 7 at 2:30pm.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)