Get Stupid

Sometimes art is meant simply to amuse

Contemporary art is often overanalyzed. Critics write thousands of words trying to interpret or just understand what may be intended simply as nonsense or even stupidity. The 35-year-old performance artist Claude Wampler has seen her share of critical overanalysis -- writers putting the proverbial finger on what makes her pieces tick -- even though she once said, "All my work is pretty open. I don't hold people responsible for their interpretations." Classically trained in ballet, butoh, opera and acting, she is also the creator of a photograph called Scrotum Yarmulke, an image of a dude pulling his balls over the head of his lapdog. So it should come as no surprise that Wampler's pieces explore the sillier side of human behavior, and that many find them laugh-out-loud funny.

Wampler returns to Houston this month with her new piece, "Stable (Stupidity Project Part 10)." Part dance, part interactive performance and part visual art installation, "Stable" combines sculpture, photos and sound design with "time-based performance." DiverseWorks's main gallery and theater will be utilized in tandem with the multimedia presentation. The exhibit runs Friday, February 20, through Saturday, February 28, with performances by Wampler Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, at 8 p.m. 1117 East Freeway. For information, call 713-335-3445 or visit www.diverseworks.org. Free. -- Troy Schulze

Coma: The Musical

Claude Wampler performs "Stable."
Courtesy of Claude Wampler
Claude Wampler performs "Stable."
Steven Brinberg in "Simply Barbra"
Courtesy of Theater LaB Houston
Steven Brinberg in "Simply Barbra"
Rick Najera as Buford Gomez
Rick Najera as Buford Gomez

Memories become show-stoppers in the fevered brain of a hospitalized man

SAT 2/21

Next time you catch yourself bitching about never having enough time, consider the story of Gordon Michael Schwinn. Stuck in a dead-end job composing songs for a kid's TV character named Mr. Bungee (a frog) and stressed over a deadline, Schwinn collapses from a brain condition and requires immediate surgery. While hospitalized (and even comatose), he writes the songs for the musical he fears he'll never finish. Surrounded by his loved ones, he hallucinates episodes from his past, and the visions take shape as musical numbers. William Finn's loosely autobiographical A New Brain plays at Masquerade Theatre this month, and the two-time Tony Award-winning Finn will attend the show's opening night on Saturday, February 21. Through March 13. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; 8 p.m. Thursday, March 11. 1537 North Shepherd. For reservations, call 713-861-7045. $21 to $26 ($50 opening night). -- Troy Schulze

Ageless and Evergreen

SAT 2/21

A star is born again. Be-wigged and backlit, premier impressionist Steven Brinberg delivers a honey-throated balm to those who shed dramatic tears over the farewell concerts of diva emeritus Barbra Streisand. No mere lip-synching drag queen, Brinberg performs the songs of the retired chanteuse with his own voice -- unnervingly well. He's also got the mannerisms, stage presence, giant ego and evening gown-heavy wardrobe of La Streisand down pat. You can catch Brinberg's cabaret act, "Simply Barbra," at Theater LaB Houston's tenth anniversary gala. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 21. Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 300 Bagby. For tickets, call 713-315-2525. $30 to $50. -- Lisa Simon

Over the Borderline

Don't get caught on the wrong side of this border guard's mirrored shades. Rick Najera's character stands proudly -- and hilariously -- for a secure South Texas in Buford Gomez - Tales of a Right Wing Border Patrol Officer. 8 p.m. Friday, February 20; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, February 21; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 22. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-228-8421 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. $26. -- Lisa Simon

 
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