"Please be aware: This show contains the use of a firearm. There will be a loud shot during the performance." Placed at the entrance of the Ensemble Theatre, the warning primes crowds for the action in Sundown Names and Night-Gone Things, a play by Leslie Lee making its world premiere here. Set in Chicago in the late '30s, Sundown Names chronicles the lecherous dealings of a group of burial insurance salesmen who will trade peace of mind for a piece of ass any day of the week. Enter Cairo Biggs, a literate young man whose idealism stands in stark contrast to the wizened opportunism of his colleagues. Cairo becomes an imperfect beacon of compassion in the play, earnestly admonishing the other salesmen, who enjoy an uproarious rapport. But his preaching is largely ineffectual -- that is, until the moral lesson of the play arrives...with a bang. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26; 8 p.m. Friday, June 27; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28; 3 p.m. Sunday, June 29. Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main. For more information, call 713-520-0055. $15 to $20. -- Keith Plocek
Calling All Crankers
A professional prankster visits the Laff Stop
Dane Cook's comedy takes you back to the awkward intoxication of adolescence. He jokes about sniffing Magic Markers, snorting Nestlé Quik (in lieu of speed) and being freaked out by Kool-Aid Man's eerie "Oh, yeah." "I don't like it when juice wears tights," he quips. Also on his list of memories are evil Speak & Spells and rocky Slip'n Slides. Of course, no return to childhood would be complete without a little crank-calling. Cook plays the Foreign Guy on Comedy Central's Crank Yankers, pulling fast ones on unsuspecting pawns while switching between a barely comprehensible foreign accent and a cocky American one. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 26; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 27, and Saturday, June 28. Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For more information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $20 to $25. -- Keith Plocek
The Pernice Brothers bandleader Joe Pernice is refreshingly honest about his aspirations. "I just wanted to make a pretty and mellow pop record," he once said, referring to the band's first album, Overcome by Happiness. "And I'm not afraid to use the word pop. There's nothing shameful about it." Pernice wants to make smart, intelligent pop in the vein of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The difference is that he has no contempt for it (unlike Costello and Jackson). The songs are earnest, heart-on-your-sleeve affairs, shiny, jangly and fluid, recalling the best work of the Cure. When the show's over you'll wonder why the Pernice Brothers aren't superstars. 10 p.m. Friday, June 27. Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue. For information, call 713-869-5263. $7-$10. -- Troy Schulze
Young theatergoers who can't fathom that their teachers have lives outside the classroom will be fascinated with A Woman's Work, Ruby Nelda Perez's one-woman show. In it, she portrays a middle school student-teacher arriving home after a long day. Perez reflects upon, among other things, growing up plump and on welfare. She also seamlessly morphs into several characters, portraying how they think of her, "la big te-cher." 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 27. MECA, 1900 Kane. For tickets, call 866-468-7621 or visit www.ticketweb.com. $5. -- Cathy Matusow
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