There's nothing boring about living in Houston, and this weekend's lineup should prove the point. We have a spectacular multimedia show inspired by aluminum, the clean lines of the AIA Houston Home Tour, a play about abortion (that's not really about abortion) and a celebration of Egyptian culture over at Discovery Green. But camels aren't the only spectacle: Check out our take on five of the spookiest haunted houses in and around the Houston area. Time to get your haunt on.
Aluminum: known to most as only oh-so-average tin foil. But did you know that aluminum has quite the personality? In fact, the boronic element is getting its own one-of-a-kind extravaganza by way of Israeli theater director Ilan Azriel. “Aluminum has so many qualities,” Azriel says, praising the metal’s movement and shine. “This is an amazing material and together with the talented performers and unique lighting, this show is truly visually exciting.” The Aluminum Show, presented by Wells Fargo, has been in development since 2002 and is a unique blend of dancing, music, puppetry, comedy and neat-o light tricks that really brings something new. The pictures and videos are amazing, making this one of our picks for this Friday night. “This show takes the audiences on a magical tour to a different planet,” Azriel claims. “One man’s journey to a parallel universe made entirely of aluminum. Pipes come to life, transforming into [these] imaginary, mysterious, playful characters.” Beyond spectacle, Azriel says this dizzying circus of imagination also boasts an eco-friendly message. “We live in a world of mass-production high consumption,” Azriel says. “I hope the take-home message is: Use your imagination. Once you see the life inside materials, you [might] be more open to the idea of reusing them.”
7:30 p.m. Friday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.
When is a play about teen abortion not really about abortion? Ruby Rae Spiegel’s thrillingly authentic Dry Land at Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company does feature one hell of a disturbing abortion, but it also draws our attention to the issues of bullying, eating disorders, female sexuality, suicide, popularity, the dynamics of teen friendships, identify versus reputation and, yes, reproductive rights. And it does so with equal turns of humor, heartbreak and, most importantly, an utterly genuine voice that drops us into a the world of 17-year-old girls and never once makes us question the insider view. “Punch me again,” says Amy (a powerhouse Skyler Sinclair), arms wide wearing nothing but a bathing suit and shorts as she stands in the swim team locker room. The demand is directed at fellow swimmer Esther (an emotionally nubile Kat Cordes) who hesitatingly does her best to put her back into the stomach punches she inflicts. There’s no talk of pregnancy or a baby, just that “it” needs to go. It’s hard to watch, this seemingly casual way the girls go about dealing with Amy’s situation. But then unlike politicians, religious leaders or Pro Choice advocates, this pregnancy isn’t about big social justice issues or God for the girls. It’s just another thing in their complex, cusp of adulthood lives they think they must deal with on their own. With stellar direction by Julia Traber, the team has jumped into Spiegel’s domain expertly and with great attention to detail, making this reviewer's favorite our other choice for Friday night on stage.
8 p.m. Friday. Continuing 3 p.m. October 30; 8 p.m. October 31 (pay what you can); and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Through November 5. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $15 to $25.
Houston has loads of festivals, but there’s always room for one more. “My wife, Sylvia, and I are first-generation Egyptians and I had the idea of starting the first festival about two years ago,” says Mark Rafail, president and founder of the first annual Houston Egyptian Festival. In addition to Egyptian fare from Phoenicia Specialty Foods, the daylong shindig also showcases Arabic and Egyptian singers, belly dancing shows and lessons, Egyptian merch and five exotic camels. Additionally, 8th Wonder Brewery is producing a custom craft Egyptian beer for the festival, and Rafail says that he has a commitment from the Egyptian government to fly in the national folkloric dance team, an Egyptologist, and even artifacts that complement the ancient Egyptian relics on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They had us at exotic camels, making this inaugural homage to Egypt one of our favorites for Saturday in the park.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For information, call 832-786-9373 or visit egyptfesthouston.com. Free to $10.
There are no shocking, “Oh my God, can you believe they did that?” features for any of the houses on this year’s AIA Houston Home Tour. (A previous tour included a house with a spiral staircase that went up through a three-story closet.) There’s also no unifying theme or style for this year’s tour. And that’s a good thing, says AIA Houston Executive Director Rusty Bienvenue. “I think this is the most diverse tour we’ve had as far as architectural styles are concerned. What you will find is black wood on the top half of the JT ARC Studio house at 517 Winslow. That’s not paint; the wood was charred as a means of preservation. The people behind the tour hope you’ll notice things like that when you visit the homes. “I think a lot of people will miss the charred wood unless they have it pointed out and explained to them,” says Bienvenue. Luckily, the architects for the nine homes included on this year’s tour are on hand to do just that. “That’s one of the nice aspects of the tour. People can ask [the architects] questions, engage them in conversations about what they’ve done, why they’ve done it.” These home tours are always amazing, making this our other recommendation for Saturday afternoon.
Halloween is right around the corner, so it’s time to get spooked in the Bayou City. Houston-area haunts are ready to frighten and delight with a fantastic lineup of events. Here’s a look at freaky, macabre and downright terrifying houses that are sure to draw some screams.
The Creepy Hollow Haunted House is a fully loaded haunt that provides a scare you may not come back from, with multiple attractions, including the dense Dark Woods, looked after by a caretaker hoping for fresh skin to replace his burned flesh; Pitch Black, a research facility gone wrong where you’ll find plenty of psycho killers in between moments of flashing lights and complete darkness; and a Freak Show VR Experience. 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. October 31. Through November 5. 12872 Valley Vista, Rosharon. For information, visit creepyhollowhauntedhouse.com. $30 to $40.
Get ready for the creeps because Nightmare on the Bayou, a bad dream located right next to Houston’s oldest graveyard along the bayou, is truly terrifying. The 15,000-square-foot maze of high-intensity attractions claims to be the only haunted house in Houston that’s really haunted. See for yourself as you make your way through the twists and turns, filled with freaky actors and potential spirits drifting throughout. 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday and October 31. 1515 Studemont. For information, visit nightmareonthebayou.com. $22 to $45.
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This year’s horror factory at Phobia features two houses and a total of five killer attractions, including Dawn of the Machine, the Genetic Nightmare and the Exile — a three-part journey through a deadly packing plant, a contaminated savage ground and a dark lab dubbed Contagion. 7:30 to midnight Friday and Saturday, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday and October 31. 5250 South Sam Houston Parkway East. For information, visit darke.com. $15 to $30.
ScreamWorld's five blood-tingling attractions range from an old-school slaughterhouse to a seriously creepy Clown Asylum Maze, where strobe lights disorient as a pack of prowling evil clowns hunt guests down. New this year are the House of Heads and the Dot Dungeon, where a classic fan favorite movie scene is maxed out and enlarged 300 percent. 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. October 31. 2225 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For information, visit screamworld.com. $17 to $29.
The Terror Dome Houston Haunted House bills itself as the scariest haunted house in the Bayou City and promises new rooms, Hollywood-quality effects and characters to send chills down your spine. Be sure not to miss The Barn, where, organizers promise, the animals get to do the slaughtering. In addition to the haunted house, the venue offers a Sickos and Freakos Paint Ball Massacre (for just ten bucks, you get to take 100 shots at creepy clowns). Visitors can also take photos with the zombie dancers roaming the grounds of this spooky spot just off I-10. 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday and October 31. 16030 East Freeway, Channelview. For information, visit houstonterrordome.com. $20 to $50.
Olivia Flores Alvarez, Jessica Goldman, Steve Jansen, Vic Shuttee and Brooke Viggiano contributed to this post.