If you’re looking for a somber, intellectual film exploring self-responsibility, Finders Keepers might not be the first thing to pop into your mind. But the fact that it’s not somber doesn’t mean it’s not serious, and the fact that it’s not intellectual doesn’t mean it’s not thoughtful. A documentary that screens for a week starting Friday, Finders Keepers starts off as a seemingly poking-fun-at-hicks farce. John Wood is a ne’er-do-well who loses his leg in an airplane crash. Somehow he manages to obtain the severed limb and plans to preserve it.
Along comes junk man Shannon Whisnant, who buys an old barbecue grill from a storage sale. He opens up the grill and, surprise, there’s John Wood’s preserved leg, complete with hanging tendons and grimy toenails. (Okay, we may have added the grimy toenails part.) Wood wants his leg back, and Whisnant insists he bought the limb when he bought the grill. The two go to court amid a whirlwind media storm.
The story’s told with Wood, Whisnant, their friends and relatives speaking directly into the camera and telling their version of the story. These are simple, down-home country folk who throw in a lot of “He said…And then I said…So I thought…” commentary. But just when Finders Keepers has the audience convinced that it’s an over-the-top farce, the film takes a left turn and becomes a story about Wood’s paying homage to his “what a great guy!” father, his decline into drugs and joblessness and, because of the media scandal about his leg, his slow climb back into decent society.
It's also a cringe-worthy look at Whisnant, who, convinced he was always destined to be rich and famous, is willing to ride to fame on the amputated leg of a stranger.
It’s not at all somber or intellectual, but Finders Keepers manages to be serious and thoughtful nonetheless.
10 p.m. Daily. Through October 7. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Vintage Park, 114 Vintage Park. For information, call 713-715-4707 or visit drafthouse.com/houston/vintage_park.
Even though everyone knows how it’s going to end (badly), Bonnie & Clyde will have audiences rooting for the young couple to succeed, even if they are criminals, predicts Kathryn Porterfield, a recent Sam Houston State BFA grad who’s playing the lead female role in the musical.
“They were victims of their times. They weren’t going to go anywhere if they didn’t do what they did,” she says.
The first offering of TUTS Underground’s 2015-16 season, Bonnie & Clyde is a close-to-home historical retelling of the couple who got together in Texas during the early 1930s, successfully robbing a number of banks while making law enforcement crazy.
“It’s such an incredible experience when you get to play someone who actually lived who’s an historical figure; there’s so much you can find out about them. You get a real sense of who they were. To be able to portray her onstage is really incredible,” says Porterfield (recently seen in First Date, the 2015 Houston Theater Award winner for Best Musical).
“At the root of it all, she’s a young girl and she’s got really big dreams. She wants to be a famous actor and a singer and a poet, and she wants to get to Hollywood. And then she falls head over heels for Clyde, and from there he makes all these promises to her,” Porterfield says.
“This is set in the Great Depression and there’s not a lot of money for anyone and especially there in west Dallas, which is the slum of slums. She’s 19, and she meets this boy who, through his robbing, has obtained quite a bit of cash and promises her the world, and she gets kind of caught up in this lifestyle in order to pursue her dreams.
“Clyde did most of the killing; she did assist him in most of the robberies. You will see her use guns,” Porterfield says, adding that despite this, she believes Clyde killed only when he got backed into a corner. “I don’t think either one of them were these bloodthirsty killers the FBI made them out to be.”
With a score from Frank Wildhorn, the story has all the elements of a good musical, Porterfield says. “With the life that they had, it wasn’t always glamorous, but how exciting it was. Not only the excitement of the shootouts and the robbing but the love. Especially for Bonnie, it’s infatuation at first sight. It has everything that makes a good musical.”
7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through October 11. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com/underground. $25 to $49.
You don’t ordinarily hear rock-and-roll classics from Janis Joplin, Howlin’ Wolf and Kurt Cobain performed on a cello. Then again, Maya Beiser, making her Houston debut in a performance for the Society for the Performing Arts on Friday, isn’t an ordinary artist. The Israel-born cellist has turned the classical music world on its ear with her eclectic repertoire. Her choice of music and near-perfect technique make her stand out in a crowd of contemporary classical musicians.
For her Houston show, titled Maya Beiser Cello All Vows, she’s joined onstage by drummer Glenn Kotche of Wilco, and bassist Jherek Bischoff. The show’s set list includes works from Beiser’s latest album, Uncovered.
8 p.m. Friday. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $28 to $68.
Little did Jeff McKissack know when he created his quirky homage to the orange — brick by brick, with found objects, tiles and farm equipment — that his architectural maze would inspire a foundation, an art car parade and programs that celebrate the artist in everyone. On Saturday, the Orange Show Monument serves as inspiration yet again for a new collaborative dance work, the site-specific Wishing Well.
In creating the piece, director Ashley Horn channeled McKissack’s creative process. “I tried to let each day be its own building block without necessarily having an overarching, predetermined story line or structure. We, the dancers and I, built all of these tiny units of movement and intention and then assembled them to create Wishing Well,” says Horn, who incorporated “movement that is free, open, at times childlike and joyful.”
Traditionally, Horn’s shows involve many, many costumes for her dancers, but the outdoor locations of Smither Park and the monument presented challenges. “I logistically couldn’t have dancers changing costumes, so instead of pouring all of this time into creating a vast collection of costume pieces, I decided to make each costume intricate, special and unique to the dancer wearing it,” says Horn.
“I took important aspects of their lives and qualities of their personalities and created embroidery mosaics on stark white costumes. The shapes, patterns and content of the embroidery are inspired by the eclectic decor of the Orange Show.
“It is a special place that brings me happiness and peace when I visit, and I hope to share that with a broad audience,” says Horn. “I hope that people leave Wishing Well full of wonder and a childlike sense of joy.”
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Orange Show Monument, 2402 Munger. For information, call 832-489-2572 or visit ashleyhorndance.com/wishing-well. $12 or pay-what-you-can.
Traditional Jewish Provençal folklore and African-American blues and jazz blend together so successfully that they serve as the opener for Apollo Chamber Players’ eighth season: Blurred Boundaries: Oppression to Expression.
As part of its 20 x 2020 lineup [20 new folk-music-inspired works by the year 2020], Rhapsody Nouveau features composer Gilad Cohen during the Sunday concert. Cohen is an Israel-born artist whose influence comes from not only his classical training and Jewish upbringing but also the modern blues, jazz and rock found in America. Apollo performs his newly created Three Goat Blues.
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“Our season theme, 'Blurred Boundaries,' is how composers use oppressive circumstances and persecution to compose beautiful music,” says Matt Detrick, Apollo Chamber Players co-founder and artistic director. “With this first concert, we’re looking at the Jewish experience of oppression juxtaposed with the African-American oppression here in the United States, and how that experience led to the birth of jazz and blues, and how the Jewish-French composers from around the time of World War II formed a club called Les Six, whose sole purpose was to preserve Jewish folk music during the war.
“'Rhapsody' alludes to the Gershwin selections we’re playing in the concert, while 'nouveau' is French for new."
6 p.m. Sunday. Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston, 3400 Main. For information, call 832-704-8889 or visit apollochamberplayers.org. $30
Margaret Downing, Ashley Clos, Susie Tommaney and Bill Simpson contributed to this post.