Start your weekend with the Gus Edwards comedy Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking at The Ensemble Theatre. Think of it as a sort of color-infused, senior citizen twist on the television sit-com Senifeld. Nothing much seems to be happening and at the same time, lots is happening. Abe and Henry, two old black guys are embroiled in a decade-old rivalry over a woman, but inexplicably meet daily just to sit on a park bench and argue. Not about nothing, but about love and life lost with enough vulgarity to make a sailor blush.
“[Abe] was always the biggest guy in the room. He was a prize fighter back in his youth,” says Alex Morris, tasked with portraying Abe. “He is a guy who has bounced around from job to job … that loves hard and lives life with a lot of zest and a lot of gusto.”
Abe’s counterpart is Henry. While Abe is constantly in motion and unafraid of conflict, Henry is more laid-back, intellectual and sedate. Morris also admits, “[Henry's] a better dresser [than Abe].” Regardless, Morris says he likes Abe. “I like playing big, strong, loudmouth guys.” Besides, adds Morris, Abe dresses well, he just happens to care less about fashion.”
The cursing and antagonism are a cover for the old men. “Men have this thing about saying to each other out loud that they love each other [but] I always thought of the play as a love story… For all of their bluster, for all of their ‘I don’t like you,’ by the end of the play you realize they are guys that would cut for each other.”
This relationship is not a stretch for Morris. “I’ve known Byron for 30 years… since I started acting.” Byron Jacquet shares the role of Henry with Wayne DeHart. Morris has known both men for decades. “To be able to play the longevity of that relationship is easier, because we already have that. We trust each other [and] we trust the what the playwright has given us. That to me is the joy of it.”
7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays. Through May 31. The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main. For information, call 713-520-0055 or visit ensemblehouston.com. $26 to $40.
Also Friday we have the story of Intafada cows. A group of cows became “criminals” sought by Israeli authorities in The Wanted 18, a documentary showing as part of the 2015 Houston Palestine Film Festival. In Wanted a small Palestinian town sought agricultural independence by clandestinely purchasing and raising a herd of cows during the first intifada. When authorities tried to seize the cows, the townspeople found ingenious ways to hide their herd. It's a dark topic, but nevertheless comedy ensues, says Khalil AbuSharekh, president of the Houston Palestinian Film Festival Executive Committee and organizer of this year’s festival.
The film features black-and-white stop-motion animation, comic book panels and re-enactments along with interviews and archival footage. The film, co-directed by Canadian filmmaker Paul Cowan and Palestinian multidisciplinary visual artist and director Amer Shomali, centers on animated “intifada cows” Rivka, Ruth, Lola and Goldie. The Wanted 18 is clearly a political film, but AbuSharekh says that’s not the intention or focus of the festival.
The festival's second film, Villa Touma, directed by Palestinian-Israeli citizen Suha Arraf, follows three aging and unmarried sisters attempting to groom their orphaned niece, who they perceive as lower class, into a fine lady. The film's funded by the Israel Film Fund. “There’s big politics surrounding the funding of the film and the director herself. However the story has absolutely nothing to do with politics.” More importantly, says AbuSharekh, “the film portrays the Christian-Palestinian community and how they live their daily life.” (The festival continues with several more screenings through May 23 at Rice University.)
Portraying Palestinian lives around the globe is the main aim of the Palestinian Film Festival, says AbuSharekh. There is a large Palestinian population in Houston, and the world, but “there is no [official] Palestine... so we took it on our own to say ‘We exist.’”
The Wanted 18 screens at 7:30 p.m. May 8. Villa Touma screens at 7 p.m. May 9. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $10.
ART CREDIT: COURTESY OF KINO LORBER
CUTLINE: The Wanted 18
On Saturday you might want to drop in on the Glassell School of Art. Fifty years ago the school (then known as the Museum School) established a jewelry course inside the basement of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Since then, the program has moved several times and expanded; pieces from former and current students and faculty can be seen in the “Course of Action: 50 Years of Jewelry and Enamel at the Glassell School of Art” exhibit at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.
“The program has expanded to include metalsmithing, enameling and digital technology,” said Sandie Zilker, head of Glassell’s Jewelry and Enamel Department and the Three-Dimensional Design Department, who curated the exhibit along with faculty-members Nathan Dube and Jan Arthur Harrell. “We use computers to program, for wax castings, to laser cutting to laser etching and also 3D prints. In the early days the technologies were more traditional; we used copper, brass, silver, metal and gemstones,” said Zilker. “I began to introduce acrylic, resin, different types of plastics, felt, fibers and steel.”
Zilker notes one aspect of the exhibit is the assortment of work. “What I hope will impress people is the amazing variety,” said Zilker. “From the very traditional to non-traditional scale and materials and point of view. It varies from beautiful accessories to jewelry as objects to make a personal or political statement. Our goal is to give students the vocabulary so that they can express themselves in their own way,” said Zilker. “People will be wowed by the variety.”
There's an opening reception 5:30 to 8 p.m. on May 9. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through August 29. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main. For information, call 713-529-4848 or visit crafthouston.org. Free.
By Sunday, we'll bet you'll be ready for Irish animator Tomm Moore, the Oscar nominee for his 2010 The Secret of Kells, who found another pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with his 2014 animated feature Song of the Sea, now being screened as part of the MFAH Film Restorations & Revivals series.
Using hand-drawn animation instead of the ubiquitous computer-generated technique, Sea has a refreshing 2-D retro look that suggests Japanese anime instead of the more fluid, yet cold, Pixar style. The flat cut-out quality of the characters contrasts sharply, some might say magically, with the ultra-lush watercolor backgrounds. It's an odd, eerie pairing that enhances this family-friendly tale of a mute little girl who is half seal, or Selkie in Irish folklore, whose quest to find her long-lost mother, and her voice, takes her and her brother Ben on a richly detailed adventure from island-home lighthouse, to Dublin cityscape, into the healing depths of the sea.
Along with some dazzling sequences that could have been inspired by the etchings from ancient Celtic manuscripts (swimming with the magic seals is particularly inventive; while the music that comes out of the enchanted sea flute is seen as wafting fireflies), the cartoon is blessed with the voice of the phenomenal Irish actor Fionnula Flannigan as both kindly Granny and misguided Owl Witch, Macha, who delights in turning creatures into stone so they can't “feel bad” anymore. The film's other blessing is the ethereal score by French award-winning composer Bruno Coulais and Irish folk band Kila. Like the film's message that growing up is full of wonder, the music is both comforting and slightly sad.
1 and 5 p.m. May 10; 5 p.m. May 17; 1 p.m. May 25. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. $9.
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In case you have forgotten, this Sunday is Mother's Day! Show all of the moms in your life just how special they are to you with a decadent experience at one of Houston's excellent restaurants. From family-friendly brunches to elegant, 4-course meals, check out our roundup of Where To Dine in Houston This Mother's Day.
And that's the best we can do for you other than taking your mom to dinner ourselves. Have a great day!
Brooke Viggiano, D.L. Groover, Katricia Lang, Olivia Flores Alvarez, and Susie Tommaney contributed to this report.