Press Picks

Dungeon Drop Meander through Merlin's laboratory (with mythical lighting), the king's armory (the weapons testing area) and a dungeon filled with the remains of knights who didn't pass the test of courage. Then comes the scary stuff: You sit in an amusement park car, your legs dangling as the ride lifts you 230 feet in the air; after you enjoy a brief bird's-eye view of the downtown skyline, the car drops 100 feet at a rate of 62 miles per hour -- and then the state-of-the-art magnetic brakes kick in. AstroWorld brags that Dungeon Drop is the tallest scream machine in Texas, and it opens today. The park is open Saturdays 10 a.m.10 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-8 p.m. only till May 17, when the full season kicks in. AstroWorld, 9001 Kirby, 799-1234. $30.95; $19.95, children under 48 inches tall; $14.98, seniors; free, children under three.

Tamalalia 2! Tamarie Cooper's taking her show on the road --with audience in tow. Ticket holders will board a school bus and travel with Cooper on a tour of her favorite places in Houston: among them, the Beer Can House and the Home of Easy Credit. Play on-the-road bingo, sit back as Cooper shows off her way with clothes, and groove to the Car Crash Dance, the Mad Cow Ballet and a performance by Texas Guinness Lovers. Bring along a sack lunch; an activity kit is included. 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 18. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 935-2008. $9.99.

Westheimer Street Festival First, the street will be shut down. Then, the stages will be erected for the spring 1997 edition of this long-running street fest. Nearly every good punk/rock/pop band in town will play at one point or another on one of festival's three stages, from the Jinkies and the Flaming Hellcats (both today) to the Poor Dumb Bastards and the Suspects (both Sunday). There'll be some arts and crafts, more food and even more beer and a Bud Light Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament. And, yes, there'll be traffic, and parking headaches, and better people-watching than the International Festival. 12:30-7:30 p.m. today and Sunday. 200-1000 blocks of Westheimer. Free.

may 4
Channing Concerts season finale The Tallis String Quartet, Houston's much lauded and longest-standing professional quartet, joins forces with four of their academic peers for a rare performance of Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, op. 20. That's four violins, two violas and a pair of cellos performing a work that's described as popular despite its being rarely performed. Sounds like it has underground overtones, but then Mendelssohn did write the piece as a teen. First, though, the Tallis group sets the stage with Sir Edward Elgar's only work for quartet, Quartet in C minor, op. 83. 4 p.m. First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin, 526-5200. Free.

may 5
The Mojado Brothers Comedy Festival That's right: mojado. So what of it? "Mojado Brothers" started as the name of comedian Paul Rodriguez's clothing line, and from there has grown to a traveling comedic troupe and possibly even a television series based right here in Texas. In all incarnations of the Mojado Brothers, the message is upbeat, a full-on celebration of ethnicity. The main Mojado for this show is Pablo Francisco, the Robin Williams-esque regular on Fox's Mad TV; backing him up are Freddy Soto, Sheila Rivera and Rene Sandoval. They've been at the Laff Stop all week, and they're sticking around for a special Monday night show for Cinco de Mayo. 8:30 p.m. Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. $12.

may 6
Andree Putman: A Rice Design Alliance Lecture Putman is among the world's top interior designers; Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Cartier call on her expertise. Her philosophy: "beautiful things for everyone." 8 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 527-4876. Free.

An Evening with Jimmy Buffett If you book him, they will come. With almost no radio play, the Chief Parrothead has sold scads of his 27 albums, and faithful fans swarm the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for his annual pair of dates there. Call it a yuppie love-in: thousands of suburbanites paying top dollar to live vicariously, if only for a few hours, through a man who sails and drinks and pays his bills by singing about sailing and drinking. 8 p.m. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, 629-3700. $27.50-$54.

James Talmadge: People, Places & Things Artist James Talmadge must love crowds. His romanticized paintings are crammed with folks who are enjoying the elbow-to-elbow company of their fellow man; the brightly colored works make you want to get out of the gallery and go clubbing. Only then you couldn't see the paintings. Talmadge, a favorite painter of the entertainment industry, counts among his collectors Louie Anderson, Bill Cosby and the new Mr. and Mrs. Andre Agassi. The exhibit opens today at Post Gallery; an artist's reception will be held from 6-9 p.m. May 8. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 1706 Post Oak Boulevard, 622-4241.

may 7
Chili Queen Newsman Jim Lehrer stopped in the Dairy Queen in Emory, Texas, for an ice cream sandwich back in 1986 and listened as a waitress and customer argued over how much change was due. Lehrer hightailed it out before the dispute was resolved, but he wrote the play Chili Queen about what might have happened: The customer gets hold of a gun and demands not only his change but an apology; then the media circus comes to town. Bob Boudreaux and Dave Ward play the stars of the media circus. Preview performances at 8 p.m. tonight and May 8; regular performances, May 9-June 1 (see Thrills, Theater for additional showtimes). Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 527-0220. Preview, $10.

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