As far as anyone knew, Henry Darger was just a reclusive, aged janitor. But when he died at age 80, his landlord cleaned out his apartment and found paintings, drawings and more than 15,000 pages of text. Contained within was the cartoonish fantasy world of the Vivian Girls, hermaphroditic, winged children who take on crazed adult soldiers to save the world. Fortunately, dancer Pat Graney's career is more available to the general public. The Seattle-based choreographer has created more than 40 original dance pieces since 1979. Her latest concoction, based on Darger's paintings and words, comes to Houston this weekend as a joint presentation of DiverseWorks and Society for the Performing Arts.
Graney calls The Vivian Girls "more of like a visual performance piece" than a dance. "The movement is taken from the paintings and developed into locomotion," she says. Five members of her company dance like Darger's girls as colorful collages of his art, and Celtic-tinged, "lullaby-like" songs guide the piece along. After this show, you just may start questioning the secret life of your aging neighbor. 8 p.m. Friday, May 13. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org. $30 to $38. -- Julia Ramey
Mildred's Umbrella's new show shares some dirty secrets
Ah, we remember when they were so young and innocent... wait, strike that. "Innocent" never described Mildred's Umbrella, whose first productions, in 2001 and 2002, were called Kama Sutra and Eros: A Circus. But now that the folks at Mildred's Umbrella have rid themselves of innocence's ugly stepsibling, inexperience, they're resurrecting the two shows in condensed, one-act formats. Writer John Harvey trimmed and combined them to form Needful Creatures, opening this weekend. Eros, directed by Eric Doss, tells the story of three circus performers preparing love scenes for a show they know very little about. Kama Sutra, directed by Michelle Edwards, features a group of friends and strangers who confess their darkest -- and dirtiest -- secrets in a bar. See why innocence is overrated when Needful Creatures opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13. Show runs through May 28. Midtown Art Center, 3414 La Branch. For information, call 832-418-0973 or visit www.mildredsumbrella.com. $10. -- Julia Ramey
No reality show ever kept it quite as real as Insomniac with Dave Attell. The popular Comedy Central series followed stand-up comedian Dave Attell as he hung out in bars in various cities, smoking, drinking and grousing with whoever else was still awake. Period. The fact of the matter is, Attell had been doing pretty much the same thing for the previous 16 years on the comedy-club circuit, just without the TV crew. This week Attell's Insomniac Tour brings his razor-sharp timing and unassuming stage manner to town. One question: Dude, where's the after-party? 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14. Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas. For tickets, call 713-225-8551 or visit www.verizonwirelesstheater.com. $32.50. -- Scott Faingold
Comedy, Aisle Nine
Why take in Main Street Theater's new comedy, On the Razzle? Any play revolving around the actions of a pair of "naughty grocers' assistants" is, by nature, irresistible. Add in the antic verbal gymnastics of Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead), and you can expect a wild evening at the theater indeed. Show opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, and runs through June 5. 2540 Times Boulevard. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-524-6706 or visit www.mainstreettheater.com. $15 to $30. -- Scott Faingold