Tom is a young rising political star, a moderate Republican senator. He is approached by Matt, an old family friend who works for a right-wing presidential candidate. The offer is made: Would he like to join the ticket as the vice presidential nominee? "There's just one catch," says playwright Suzanne Bradbeer. "We'd like you to sound more Christian. Can you just bump that up for us a little bit? They don't know that our character is actually an agnostic."
The God Game, the first offering of Stark Naked Theatre Company's 2014-15 season, opens this weekend and it's one of our choices for Friday. It was inspired, in part, by the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket (with some reversal of the characters' roles), says Bradbeer, who says she grew up in a liberal churchgoing household in Virginia. "Seeing how the Christian church had become so identified with right-wing policies was disturbing to me." She says she was also interested in how candidates adjust their messages to get the greatest amount of support from voters. "This character wasn't meant to be John McCain, but that was sort of the -jumping-off point."
A further plot twist in The God Game is that Tom's wife, Lisa, is a committed Christian and she doesn't want him lying about his beliefs. According to Bradbeer, "None of the characters [played by Justin Doran, Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin-Lehl] are cookie cutter people. All of them have opinions that will surprise us, and as audience members, at least at some point in the play you see things from each character's point of view."
The two-act play runs under two hours. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays and 7:30 p.m. -September 15. Through September 20. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832‑866‑6514 or visit starknakedtheatre.com. $12 to $40.
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Friday is the first full day of viewing for "The Left Bank on the Bayou: Avant-garde Art and Theater in 1930s Houston," an exhibit at the University of Houston-Downtown's O'Kane Gallery. The 1930s in Houston were exciting times for theater and art. Margo Jones, later a major factor in the success of Tennessee Williams, began serving in 1936 as assistant director of the Federal Theatre in Houston, and founded and directed the Houston Community Theatre. In 1938, a group of artists began to exhibit in a new gallery on Branard Street. Dr. Susan Baker, associate professor of art history at the University of Houston, says, "Our little gallery was one of the earliest places where artists could spend hours freely discussing the latest modernist aesthetics coming out of Europe." The O'Kane Gallery exhibition re-creates the flavor of that early spark that set the tone for today's thriving Houston art scene.
See "The Left Bank on the Bayou: Avant-garde Art and Theater in 1930s Houston" 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through October 16. O'Kane Gallery, University of Houston-Downtown, 1 Main. For information, call 713‑221‑8042 or visit uhd.edu. Free.
John Neumeier's three-act ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream makes its much-awaited premiere with the Houston Ballet this weekend and it's one of our picks for Saturday. Weaving together three stories (about four young lovers; the fairy king, his queen and their wickedly playful servant; and six players who are in the midst of an amateur theater production), the ballet is considered one of Neumeier's signature works.
Stanton Welch, the artistic director of the Houston Ballet, praises Neumeier, calling him "one of the greatest choreographers of narrative ballets in the world today." Welch credits him with transforming Hamburg into a dance mecca during his 40-year leadership of the Hamburg Ballet. The Houston Ballet is the first American company to perform Neumeier's iconic work.
See A Midsummer Night's Dream continues at 7:30 p.m. September 6, 12 and 2 p.m. September 7 and 14, 2 and 7:30 p.m. September 13. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713‑227‑2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $20 to $195.
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It's impossible to create a definitive portrait of today's urban Asia. No one image or setting captures the enormity of the region. No one artist or art form can encompass Asia's current complex culture. Its residents are young but steeped in history. Technology and tradition remain constant rivals for attention. And contemporary art reflects both the region's past and its future. Painter-turned-photographer Kirk Pedersen offers his version in "Urban Asia: Kirk Pedersen," another of our picks for Saturday. Through the camera lens, he explores everyday life in some of the great cities of Asia including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo and Taipei. Based in Los Angeles, Pedersen chose to focus on ordinary settings such as sidewalk scenes, open markets and shops.
See "Urban Asia: Kirk Pedersen" 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Through January 4. Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. For information, call 713‑496‑9910 or visit asiasociety.org/texas. Free.
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"What a lot of people don't know," actor Jason Alexander tells us, "is that I'm an old song-and-dance man." (And if we believe his biography, he's also a director, producer, teacher, poker player, magician and author.) Set for a three-day run, including Sunday, with the Houston Symphony in Jason Alexander: An Evening of Comedy and Song, the actor, best known for his role as George Costanza on the television series Seinfeld, says he knows audiences come in expecting George to sing and dance. "It's my job to make them forget about George Costanza and leave the [concert hall] with a new view of Jason Alexander."
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑224‑7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35 to $139.
Margaret Downing, Jim J. Tommaney and Angelica Leicht contributed to this post.