Powerhouse playwright Paula Vogel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for How I Learned to Drive, a dark and dreamy drama about a pedophile and his niece. Then, in 1999, she premiered The Mineola Twins, a deliciously strange satire about the ever-changing place of women in America. The cheeky play, which opens this week at Stages Repertory Theatre, skims the Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush eras as it follows the lives of Myrna and Myra, a pair of almost identical twins. (Myra has spunk; Myrna has gigantic boobs.) The siblings face the tumultuous decades of a changing country armed with radically different agendas. Both are played by the same actor (the dazzling Shannon Emerick). Myrna's a high school goodie-goodie who later settles in the burbs, where she champions the Republican way on her rabid conservative talk show. Her archenemy: her sister Myra, who sleeps with half the high school football team and eventually becomes director of a Planned Parenthood center -- and a lesbian. Throughout their comical relationship, the sisters fight over prized bedroom real estate, boys and, ultimately, feminist politics. Show opens at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22, and runs through May 8. 3201 Allen Parkway. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $25 to $35. -- Lee Williams
Down and Downer
Things ain't exactly sunny in Theatre Illuminata's Thirst and The Necklace
"Hell is other people," quoth Jean-Paul Sartre, and few other people are as hellish as the desperate folks populating Theatre Illuminata's two one-act plays, Thirst and The Necklace. Predating Sartre's No Exit by 25 years, Eugene O'Neill's Thirst is a model of sunny optimism. That is, if a sun that "glares down...like a great angry eye of God" over three mismatched shipwreck survivors floating hopelessly in shark-infested waters can be considered optimistic. Stick around for an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's short story The Necklace, wherein a misunderstanding forces a pretty and charming girl into a life of soul-crushing servitude. The folks at Illuminata say the plays illustrate our "obsession with wealth, status, beauty and the happiness we believe will come when we obtain those things." Way to harsh our mellow, guys. Show runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through April 30. Superstitious Art Warehouse, 1719 Live Oak. $8 to $10. -- Scott Faingold
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Legend has it that Queen Elizabeth (the first one) so liked the rowdy, drunken, thieving Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV that she requested the Bard give Falstaff his own play, one where he falls in love. Hence Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Verdi's Falstaff, which opens this week. Verdi's comedic opera draws from both tales; basically crowds get to watch the oaf try to seduce two young women. Welsh bass-baritone star Bryn Terfel makes his Houston debut in the last production of Houston Grand Opera's 50th season. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28. Show runs through May 15. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-228-6737 or visit www.houstongrandopera.org. Tickets start at $20. -- Julia Ramey
Man, we can't wait to see the thirty- and fortysomethings with spiky hair, studded bracelets and ripped leather who'll be lining up at Numbers to see Mr. Billy Idol, born William Michael Albert Broad. He's in town to push his signature sneer and new album, Devil's Playground. Yeah, you loved his "Rebel Yell" in the '80s, so if you want more, more, more, catch this pop-punk icon at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22. 300 Westheimer. For tickets and information, call 713-526-6551 or visit www.numbersnightclub.com. $35. -- Steven Devadanam