If you feel like something more substantial than pudding, head to The Exonerated, the popular off-Broadway play coming to Houston for one night only. Wrongly convicted inmates have received a lot of attention lately, especially since the recent revelation that the five men imprisoned for raping the Central Park jogger spent years in jail for a crime they didn't commit. The Exonerated, which stars Mia Farrow, Aidan Quinn and Montel Williams, tells the true stories of innocent survivors of death row, in their own words. 6:30 p.m. Cullen Robertson Auditorium, University of Houston - Downtown, One Main Street, Third Floor South. For information, call 713-222-7788 or visit www.texasdefender.org. $100.
Friday, April 11
Sometimes a great marketing campaign can backfire. Self-taught physicist and millionaire Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, a.k.a. IT, a.k.a. Ginger, sparked a media frenzy a couple of years ago by refusing to discuss his invention even as Steve Jobs of Apple was quoted as saying, "You won't have to convince them to architect cities around it. It'll just happen." People in chat rooms speculated that IT was a no-fuel car, a hovercraft or even a personal helicopter. As it turned out, IT was an electric, self-balancing transportation device -- in other words, a high-tech scooter. So far, the invention hasn't affected how cities are built, and Kamen himself has declared the thing overhyped. It's hard to feel sorry for somebody who's already made his million. Kamen speaks today at the Museum of Natural Science's Excellence in Science Luncheon. Noon. Doubletree Hotel Post Oak Ballroom, 2001 Post Oak Boulevard. For information, call 713-639-4629. $100.
Saturday, April 12
It's a mystery why anyone would choose to race cars when making a mistake can mean losing your life. Nevertheless, there are lots of racers who will gladly risk it all at the 16th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals, the fifth of 23 events in the National Hot Rod Association's POWERade Drag Racing Series. Top fuel, funny car, pro stock car and nitro racers will compete for over $1.9 million in cash and prizes. If you miss the event, you can catch the final eliminations Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 10; 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 11; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 13. Houston Raceway Park, 2525 FM 565 South. For information and a full schedule of events, call 281-383-7223 or visit www.houstonraceway.com. $12 to $45.
Sunday, April 13
A little controversy often turns out to be a good thing. In February, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided Tommy Chong's home and his business, Chong Glass, as part of its "Operation Pipe Dreams" crackdown on what Attorney General John Ashcroft calls the "illegal drug paraphernalia industry." But at least in this case, the joke's on Ashcroft. Chong hasn't been indicted, and what he lost in merchandise, he's gained in exposure. "What happened to me," he has said, "has served as a built-in PR machine." Joined by his wife, Shelby, Chong takes the stage today at the Laff Stop, where he's sure to milk the raid for a few laughs. 8 p.m. today and Friday, April 11; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12. 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $20.50 to $24.50.
Monday, April 14
A good photograph piques a viewer's curiosity. In Czech photographer Igor Malijevsky's Telephone (1998), a woman sits in a white chair with her back to us, bending over something that appears to be a book. On the windowsill in front of her there's a phone -- but it's just out of arm's length. What is the woman looking at? Is she waiting for a call? And for heaven's sake, what does her face look like? These questions can't be answered by viewing the photo at "The Photographic Eye: Contemporary Photography from Central Europe," but they can be pondered. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, through May 18. Opening reception: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 10. FotoFest Downtown, Vine Street Studios, 1113 Vine Street. For information, call 713-223-5522 or visit www.fotofest.org. Free.
Tuesday, April 15
It's the moment Houstonians have been desperately waiting for. Mama Mía, the Broadway rock musical featuring songs by Swedish '70s band ABBA, is coming to town. The feel-good show tells the story of Sophie, who reads her mom's diary and discovers that there are three different men out there who might be her father. In an effort to figure out who sired her, she invites all three to her wedding. Cleverly intermixed with dialogue are 22 ABBA hits, including "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "Money, Money, Money." 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, through April 27. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For tickets, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. $37.25 to $77.25.
Wednesday, April 16
It's nice to know there are still a few idealists around. The folks over at the Proletariat are hosting Commune Music, a weekly showcase of local bands. Promotional materials for the event emphasize that the show is not a competition but "an attempt to bring together artists from various genres." Today's lineup includes the Tie That Binds, Violin and the John Sparrow Band. (Though considering that former Tie member Kevin Richardson is now a member of the John Sparrow Band, it's likely those groups are already well acquainted.) 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. 903 Richmond. For information, call 713-523-1199 or visit www.theproletariat.net. $3 to $5.