CHICAGO -- For every triumph in 1997, Chicago theater had a folly to match. Here are some of the weirdest ones:
* Following the expensive flop of their local premiere of The Kentucky Cycle, the much respected Pegasus Players joined forces with a Christian ministry theater to present a one-man Bible reading; it pandered to fundamentalist audiences--and lost the theater a ton of artistic credibility.
* Capitulating to the demands of the Goodman. Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and Marriott's Lincolnshire theaters, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee dropped a 25-year tradition and permitted multiple winners in each category. The embarrassing result: In the 1997 award ceremony, four out of five actors won the "outstanding actor" category, leaving the fifth nominee to contemplate suicide.
* Friends and trustees of the historic Auditorium Theatre sued its owner, Roosevelt University, for allegedly spending the theater's profits on the university's needs and short-changing the upkeep of the theatrical treasure.
* To keep his floundering one-man show about Edgar Allan Poe afloat, stage veteran John Astin indulged in a well-publicized seance in which he tried to Poe's ghost. (Poe, however, had read the reviews and stayed out of touch.) * Finally, in his first week as the feature attraction in Ronnie Larsen's popular titillation Making Porn, porn star Ryan Idol attacked another actor and was arrested at intermission. It was, said Idol fans, the first time that the porn phenomenon had worn handcuffs for non-recreational purposes.
-- By Lawrence Bommer