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James Black as Hercule Poirot
James Black as Hercule Poirot
Bruce Bennett

A Matter of Taste

The Alley serves up some Black Coffee

Belgium is famous for its chocolates and, um, its chocolates. In the literary world, though, Belgium is the home of author Agatha Christie's master detective Hercule Poirot, perhaps the most impeccably dressed, groomed and mannered of all fictional sleuths. Written by the prolific Christie and first produced in 1930, the play Black Coffee finds Poirot summoned to a Surrey country house by an eccentric physicist who fears someone is trying to steal his weapons formula. Of course, the guy ends up dead. (Note to self: If Poirot shows up on the doorstep for a weekend visit, leave the house immediately.) Our hero must then finger the killer amid a rat's nest of family, friends and rivals. According to Christie's official Web site, Poirot became the only fictional character ever to be honored with an obituary on the front page of The New York Times. It ran after the 1975 publication of his final mystery. The detective lives on, however, in curly mustaches around the world. The show opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 2. Through July 18. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For a full schedule, call 713-228-8421 or visit $13 to $17. -- Bob Ruggiero

Raw Potential

Local comedians compete to be the funniest person in town

TUE 7/6

Sure, established stand-up comedians might guarantee you a laugh or two, but let's be honest: Sometimes the same old shtick can get old really fast. At the finals for the Houston's Funniest Person Contest at the Laff Stop, you won't see the big names doing what they do best (and too often), but you'll get to watch some local cutups clowning around for prizes and glory. Each contestant taking the stage has made it past a round of elimination, so the show should have more zingers than stinkers. Hell, even if some of these guys and gals crack under the pressure, at least you can still laugh at them. Check out the fresh talent at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 6. 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit $5. -- Don Jaun Corzo

Better Than OK

TUE 7/6

It's nice that our neighbors to the north can lay claim to at least one piece of high culture. If not for the musical Oklahoma! and its supercatchy title song, what would people think of when they hear the name of the state? The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic won the duo a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Their innovation? Weaving the musical numbers together with an actual plot. A touring revival of Oklahoma! opens here this week. With sing-along-caliber tunes like "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" and "I Cain't Say No," the show'll get you all set for your next karaoke night. Opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 6. Through July 18. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For a full schedule, call 713-315-2525 or visit $23 to $54. -- Lisa Simon

What a Drag

Tired of drag-queen performers who look fabulous but do little more than lip-synch their shows? Jimmy James, a master impersonator who actually sings live, tackles divas like Eartha, Cher, Babs, Tina and Madonna -- or is it Esther? Miss James debuts at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 2. Continues Fridays and Saturdays through July 10. 1415 Bar & Grill, 1415 California. For information, call 713-522-7066 or visit $20. -- Steven Devadanam


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