UniverSoul Circus 2015, now in a two-week Houston run, is one of our picks for Friday.
Daniel “Lucky” Malatsi, the ringmaster, will be in the middle of all the spectacle. He's had lots of jobs during his 14 years with the circus. “I’ve been a contortionist. I’ve done trampoline, DJ, a lot of comedy, slapstick and acrobatic dancer,” Malatsi tells us. “I’ve never worked with the animals; that takes a certain type of bravery. I do make tigers appear out of nowhere; I do a magic act.”
Malatsi says his current gig as ringmaster is the most difficult because of the need to always keep the audience engaged. Malatsi works with a sidekick, Zanda “Zeke” Charles. At four and a half feet tall, Charles may be short in stature, but he’s long on tenure, having been with the circus from its beginning 21 years ago. “He’s the signature of the circus,” says Malatsi. “Everybody knows him; everybody loves him.”
The show features dancers from Trinidad, trapeze artists from China, contortionists from Ethiopia and clowns from South Africa and Guinea. Music, from R&B to hip-hop, jazz to salsa, is a big part of this production, with the DJ keeping the crowd energized and dancing in their seats and aisles and sometimes even with the performers.
Times vary. Tuesdays through Sundays. Through August 16. Joe Kelly Butler Stadium, 13755 South Main. For information, call 800-745-3000 or visit universoulcircus.com. $20 to $45.
Another pick for Friday is Passing Strange, The Musical, making its Houston premiere courtesy of the Bayou Theatre Company. The troupe is the city’s youngest theater company (everyone involved is under 21 years old). The company’s co-founder and artistic director, Alric Davis, says he was looking for a show that was both non-traditional and would appeal to a young adult audience. He found it in Passing Strange, the story of a young man who leaves home in search of his destiny.
A young man (called Youth in the show) is searching for what he calls “the real,” says Davis. Youth heads overseas after a friend tells him, “Black people can be free in Europe. There are no boundaries. You can do whatever you want in Europe.”
“It’s a story that we’re all familiar with — looking for something and already having the answer,” he tells us. The score has “rock songs and it’s like a concert, but they tell a great story and it’s still a full theatrical experience. There’s some gospel in the score, some jazz, some pop and punk…there’s even a little screamo in there.”
Brookynite Joshua Pyram has the lead role. Pyram attends Howard University with Davis. After deciding that he couldn’t play the lead and direct at the same time, Davis cast Pyram in the role. “I told him, ‘You can stay in my guest room.’ He agreed, and he’s been here the entire summer, pushing himself very hard.
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-513-3626 or visit bayoutheatrecompany.org. $15.
One of our picks for Saturday is Alonso Ruiz Palacios’s Güeros. It's a French New Wave film without being French. (It’s Mexican.) Ruiz’s feature debut film just won Mexico’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Ariel, for best picture, director and cinematography.
A road movie set in and around Mexico City, Güeros follows a couple of college students who are left on their own after a strike that has closed their public university. Sombra (Tenoch Huerta) and his slacker roommate Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) are the students. Joining them is Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre), a minor delinquent who’s been sent by his exasperated mother to live with Federico in Mexico City.
The young rebels without a cause aren’t really rebels so much as deadbeats. The misguided trio falls afoul of the adult world and treats it much the same as any troubled Truffaut protagonist from the ’70s would, or like Bill and Ted. There’s a girl, of course, a firebrand student revolutionary who sets country mouse Tomás aflame.
The film is rootless, subtle and arty in a good way and somewhat disjointed. It’s also a tribute to cinema’s constant infatuation with restless youth who don’t know what to do with life. As a throwback tribute to cinema past, the movie is framed in the Golden Age aspect ratio of 3.33 to 1, and is shot in dusky black and white by Damian Garcia.
Güeros (the word refers to light-skinned, blond Mexicans) is a buoyant, low-rent film with high-end aspirations, previously winning at the Berlin International Film Festival before its surprising run at this year’s Ariel awards.
7 p.m. Saturday; 7:15 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonett. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $9.
One of our picks for Saturday is the world premiere of Give/Take, one of two shows being presented in repertory by Cone Man Running . “Bryan Maynard came to me with the idea for a script,” says Give/Take co-writer Michael Weems. “He didn’t know quite where it was going, so I took Act 1 and he took Act 2. And now here we are.” (Okay, that version glosses over the dozens of nights work-shopping, rewriting, casting and rehearsing, but we get the idea.)
The story follows Dennis (played by Maynard) as he tries to recover from a divorce. “We meet him when he’s at the end of his relationship with his wife,” says Weems. “She tells him he isn’t able to give enough to her and leaves. As a reaction, he sets out to prove how much he can give, and it all goes terribly wrong.” Autumn Clack appears as the wife.
How has it been for Maynard to take the lead role in a play he co-wrote? “He said it’s been a little surreal, learning lines that I’d written and then learning lines that he’d written. He hadn’t expected there to be a difference between the two, but there has been.”
Directed by Debra Schultz, Give/Take features original music by Ruben Ybarra. “It’s a play with music, not a musical,” Weems says.
Give/Take is performed in repertory with The Importance of Eating Earnest. See Give/Take at 8 p.m. August 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, 17, 20, 21 and 22; 2 p.m. August 9 and 15. Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 281-972-5897 or visit conemanrunning.com. $15 to $25.
Video games today are more realistic than they’ve ever been and more violent, it seems. As the market chases adult gamers, content has become increasingly dark, edgy, mature and downright frightening. GameCon 2015, our choice for Sunday, is bucking that trend.
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“We’re focusing nearly 100 percent on all-ages content,” says Marketing Director Matt Roche. “There are not a lot of cons that target younger audiences. I didn’t have anything like this when I was a kid, and it’s nice to provide that.” Big events planned include Minecraft building contests and Smash Bros. tournaments. Prizes up for grabs are Alienware laptops, 50 Loot Crates filled with gaming and geek surprises and T-shirts.
GameCon is also flying in prominent YouTube gaming personalities, among them Bashur, Clara-BabyLegs and Ashley Mariee. “They sit at home and watch their role models on YouTube,” says Roche. “This gives them a chance to meet and connect with them in a way they can’t in the comment sections.”
8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston. For information, call 713-714-1361 or visit thegamecon.com. $75 to $125.
D.L. Groover, Susie Tommaney and Jef Rouner contributed to this post.