Dave Attell isn't likely to be the next Jerry Seinfeld or Craig Shoemaker, though he was named one of the New York Times's "30 Artists Under 30 Who'll Change the Culture for the Next 30 Years" back in '94. The edgy comedian's resume includes writing stints for The Jon Stewart Show and Saturday Night Live, but Attell thrives in the clubs, where his aggressive muse blooms like a black-comic orchid. Though afflicted with the Epstein-Barr virus, the comic continues to tour. He performs here tonight through Sunday; Jim Brick and Jody Ferdig share the stage. The Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333.
The 127th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus wraps up its annual Bayou City visit this week with performances at 7:30 tonight and Friday and 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 843-3995. More info: www.ringling.com. $10.50 to $18.50 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan believed they'd hit their highest note with the 1888 piece The Yeomen of the Guard, a semi-serious stab at serious opera by the mainstays of British comic opera (try as they might, the creators of sublime farces such as The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore were constitutionally incapable of anything more than a semi-serious stab). Yeomen is well-nigh Shakespearean with its wonderfully befuddling plot turns and tragicomic setup, which revolves around an English aristocrat imprisoned in the Tower of London on a wrongful charge of sorcery. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston presents the production, which travels to Buxton, England, to compete in the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival following the local run (G&S/Houston is the only U.S. troupe scheduled to compete at IGSF '98; the company's Pinafore received the first runner-up award at the '95 edition of the fest). Final performances are at 8 tonight and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas. Info: 627-3570. $12 to $30.
"Merchant Ivory" is neither a designer bath soap nor a guy who makes period films. Rather, it's two guys who make period films: India native Ismail Merchant (who usually produces) and Oregon-born James Ivory (who typically directs). Merchant and Ivory have collaborated on more than 40 movies in 35 years; while the films have differed in the details, all bear the unmistakable M/I signature: a mingling of lush style, literary substance and busily clashing cultures. The touring festival "Views of Merchant Ivory: Across Three Continents" continues this weekend. Jefferson in Paris (1995) screens at 7:30 tonight. A double feature of Roseland (1977) and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990) is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The series concludes with the double feature Slaves of New York (1989) and The Bostonians (1984) at 5 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Info: 639-7515. $6; $5 for one film only.
When he's not polishing his golf game -- a trait he picked up while attending the University of Houston -- pop/country/ gospel artist Larry Gatlin has taken to penning musicals for himself. The first was 1994's Alive and Well; the latest is Texas Flyer, about a former rodeo cowboy (Gatlin) who runs a sad cafe in a tumbleweedy town. The world-premiere run, presented by Theatre Under the Stars, concludes with tonight's 8:30 show. The Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, 284-8350. Free.
It's a long road from bluebeat to No Doubt, but Gwen Stefani and company wouldn't be mangling ska now if not for Laurel Aitkin. The Cuba-born musician calls himself the "Godfather of Ska," but he's really the sound's sire; he became the toast of Jamaica and the spearhead of the innovative new genre (originally called bluebeat) in September 1959, when Island Records founder-to-be Chris Blackwell released Aitkin's "Little Sheila"/"Boogie in My Bones" on the Starlite label. The tunes took Britain by storm, and Aitkin capitalized by relocating to Leicester, England, in the '60s, thus seeding the nearby London scene, as well. The influential artist has had his artistic ups and downs, but he never really stopped performing, and he's still going strong at 71. Aitkin and the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble are scheduled tonight at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, 862-7580.
Dan Pastorini, Moses Malone, Enos Cabell, George Gervin, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Kenny Smith, Preston Pearson and other vaunted figures of Texas sports past mix, mingle and hit the links at the inaugural Sports Legends Gala and Golf Classic. All proceeds benefit the Trinity Life Center of Care for Homeless and Abused Children. Gala: 6:30 tonight at the Houstonian Hotel, 111 North Post Oak Lane ($75). Golf Classic: 9 a.m. Monday on the Island Course at the Kingwood Country Club, 1700 Lake Kingwood Trail, Kingwood ($150 to $250). Info: 688-3773, 771-6200.