"David McGee: Black Comedies and Night Music" Louisiana-born, Houston-reared McGee is a traditionalist who uses nontraditional means in pursuit of his artistic end: an exploration of the "grand history of painting and African-American culture and heritage." Among the oils and works on paper in the exhibit -- McGee's first solo show at a major museum -- are homages to French painter and fellow classicist Jacques Louis David (Lush Life) and to star-crossed gangsta Tupac Shakur (Thug Life). Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today; the show's up through March 1 (see Thrills for other dates and times). The Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Free.
Ascendancy The latest piece by New York's Gary Bonasorte (Killing Real Estate Women; The Marie Antoinette Society) is an offshoot of the playwright's work with the Big Apple-based Community Research Initiative on AIDS and the many hope-bound and despair-wracked characters he's encountered during his long affiliation with that organization. Though the play uses the AIDS plague as both backdrop and emotional centerpiece -- it's set at a free clinic during a drug trial -- Ascendancy is, as its title suggests, more concerned with the affirmation of life than the negation of death. Opening performances are at 8 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday. The run continues through February 15. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 101, 527-0220. $10-$28 (Advantix: 1-800-776-6048).
Madame Butterfly Butterfly's 1904 premiere at La Scala was something short of a rousing success, but Puccini's lush tragedy about the geisha named Cio-Cio-San and her ill-fated marriage to the American naval officer Pinkerton has become a repertory staple. This version by the Houston Grand Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello, is billed as an examination of "the cultural clash between Japanese medievalism and American mercantilism at the turn of the century." American soprano Paula Delligatti sings the title role; British tenor Paul Charles Clarke plays Pinkerton (their alternates are British soprano Susan Bullock and Ukrainian tenor Vladimir Grishko). The production's performed in Italian with English surtitles. The Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, conducted by Vjekoslav Sutej, provides the accompaniment. Opening performances are at 7:30 tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. The run continues through February 15. Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $20-$175 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
Pterodactyls Philadelphia-born playwright Nicky Silver is fast building a reputation as the stage's clown prince of dysfunction; his Food Chain is inhabited by a most disgusting crew of self-obsessed fools and indigestible, emotionally weightless wretches. Only slightly less rank are the Duncans, the hard-shopping, -drinking and -conniving old-money family at the black heart of Silver's Pterodactyls -- a well-aimed stab at American convention that's receiving its Houston premiere. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and the same time Saturday. The run continues through February 28. Masquerade Theatre, 720 West 11th, 861-7063. $15, $12 for students and seniors.
"Boxed Set" Consider the lowly box, that unadorned friend of those on the move. A consortium of Houston artistic types has so considered, and this multimedia event is the result. Various visual artists, including Lucy Wylie, Richard Sanchez, Bruce Cao and Curt Hill, have contributed hand-painted works on cardboard to a "synergic" exhibit that opens tonight and continues through February 14. Performances of related one-act plays -- Holly Hildebrand's Four Panes of Glass, Diana Melson Howie's Jackson Square and Jeremy Johnson's Direct from Broadway! Winner of Seven Tonys! -- are scheduled; opening shows are at 8 tonight and the same time Friday and Saturday, with more planned through February 14. P.S. The boxes will be sold "for reasonable amounts." The Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, 222-2866. $10. (Note: For details about another artist working in the cardboard medium, see "Dona Provi's Garden" party under Sunday.)
The Gold Rush Some will argue the point, but we maintain that this 1925 Chaplin work could be the best piece of work ever committed to celluloid. How to top the original Sir Charles's sublime "dance of the rolls" or the Little Tramp's other timeless misadventures in the Great White North? The film rolls at 7:30 p.m. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5.