Accidental Hero

Patrick Dewane's grandfather refused to tell stories about his service in World War II, yet when he died his basement yielded a trove of typewritten accounts, photos and rare film footage. Dewane brings this archival material to glowing life in a one-man, multimedia show that offers an enthralling, humorous and heartwarming tale of miraculous escapes and astonishing coincidences. He takes on a dozen different roles as he powerfully recounts his grandfather's journey through the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Czechoslovakia and the poignant rediscovery of his own roots. (10 p.m. Sun., 8:30 p.m. Tue., 7 p.m. Aug. 11, Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Av. S.)


Ash Land

Eight performers take a well-worn story about Dust Bowl farmers almost losing their land to venal bankers and layer on high-concept movement. Actors become oxen, waving fields of grain and art deco banquet doors. They also produce sound effects of creaking screen doors and raindrops. This gives the production an artistic integrity and dynamic spirit that leavens the hackneyed story. The performers invest stereotypes with strong flavors. A special note for Harper Zwicky, whose slide guitar is perfect. (7 p.m. Mon., 8:30 p.m. Fri., 2:30 p.m. Sat., Rarig Thrust, 330 21st Av. S.)


The Mysterious Disappearance of the Second Youngest Sister

Chicago's RE/Dance Group explores the blurry lines between fiction and reality inside a writer's mind (perhaps a Bront sister, given the work's 19th-century gothic feel). The dancing (choreographed by Michael Estanich) comes in a whirl, as if tense coils of imagination are unraveling onto the stage. The power of books (not the electronic kind) feels especially palpable -- they are piled up all around. While the work could use more variation in its energy level and musical score, this is a solid effort uniting the creative mysteries of literature and dance. (10 p.m. Sun., 7 p.m. Wed., Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S.)

Caroline palmer

As the Stomach Turns

The gang from Le Cirque Rouge has taken a big, dull blade to slice up this old standby from "The Carol Burnett Show." Amy Buchanan's script lifts dialogue often verbatim from an episode featuring a possessed child, and then the performers slash away with songs and burlesque bits. Spoofing a spoof rarely works, and this is no exception. Secondly, Buchanan writes, directs and stars in the show. It might have been good to have a second set of eyes on this jumbled mess. At least the band is really good. (2:30 p.m. Sun., 5:30 p.m. Wed., 7 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Sat., Rarig Proscenium, 330 21st Av. S)


The Music Box

Elliott David Graber and David Napolitano have created an old-fashioned romantic musical. The love story, about class differences in 1929, has a fair amount of charm, and, to its credit, ends in a surprising and touching way. But there is a sameness to many of the ballads, and the script is overwhelmed by musical-theater clichs. The frustrating production requires extended scene changes lasting almost as long as the short scenes themselves. As the central love triangle, Jordan Oxborough, Libby Anderson and Rick Latterell sing well and are quite endearing. (10 p.m. Wed., 7 p.m. Thu., 10 p.m. Sat., Rarig Thrust, 330 21st Ave. S.)


Font of Knowledge

This piece starts out as a funny film-noir sendup with a language-arts motif, a sort of "Maltese Falcon" meets "Elements of Style." Eventually it degenerates into a blend of so many styles and gags that it undercuts its promise. But it deserves points for strong acting, clever writing and wonderful design. Shelby Company puts a lot of effort into costume, sets, lighting, sound, even fight choreography. So what if the plot is something about aliens, Helvetica typeface and a sentence so bad that it can destroy the universe? It's fun. (8:30 p.m. Mon. & Fri., 5:30 p.m. Sat., Mixed Blood, 1501 S. 4th St.)

eric ringham

Train Stories

Strangers on a train meet up -- and dance, naturally. The members of BODYTALK, created by Rebecca Abas and Gerry Girouard, tango and jitterbug their way through chance encounters. Some of these are more enticing than others -- a duet for Abas and Kelly Radermacher offers a sultry slow burn, while Joey Ray and David Wolf play with acrobatic lifts and balances in well-matched give-and-take moments. But overall the show suffers from a plodding pace, moving through scenes in fits and starts, until it finally gets on track by the end. (7 p.m. Mon., 4 p.m. Fri., 7 p.m. Sat., Rarig Proscenium, 330 21st Av. S.)

Caroline palmer