Although it's inherently dorky (not to mention completely 1989), there's something mesmerizing about watching the chef at Benihana slice 'n' dice his way through a meal. A little whack here, a chop there and -- kanpai! -- suddenly your lame teriyaki dish is that much more exciting. But while any respectable foodie would turn up his nose at eating at such a place, there's nothing wrong with watching such a performance. Which is why Cookin', a swashbuckling stage show about four Korean cooks preparing a wedding feast, has been such a (pardon us) sizzler. The plot? Think Stomp meets Iron Chef: The four chefs pound out driving rhythms of samulnori -- traditional Korean music -- using knives, cutting boards, pots, pans, chopsticks and woks. All this happens while they're preparing a wedding feast under a tight deadline (a clock on stage counts it down) and a hotheaded boss screams his disapproval.
The zany show encourages audience participation; you can help make dumplings and sample soup. "American audiences have really enjoyed the rhythms," says Yong Choi, the show's stage manager and interpreter. "We've had standing ovations every night." You don't see that at Benihana. Get Cookin' at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For tickets and information, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org. $30 to $48. - Steven Devadanam
Chase the rhythm with Tom and Gerry
Synthesizer and percussion will play cat and mouse this week with the arrival of avant-garde duo Thomas Lehn and Gerry Hemingway. Originally half of an improvisational quartet, the pair decided to try their luck as a two-piece when the bass and horn players both dropped out of a tour at the last minute some eight years ago. The two have since nurtured their instinctive sonic rapport, even periodically reversing roles, with the German-born Lehn's analog synth carrying the rhythm while Hemingway takes the lead by scraping his cymbals with violin bows. The mere sight of Lehn hunched over his vastly outdated instruments, twisting dials and pulling levers like a combination mad scientist and auto mechanic, should be well worth the price of admission. 8 p.m. Friday, March 11. Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713-928-5653. $8 to $10; free for those 18 and under. - Scott Faingold
Settle down, Desperate Housewives fans: Craig Wright's play Orange Flower Water does indeed feature suburban adultery, but not of the Eva Longoria ilk. Adultery in Wright's fictional Pine City is serious, heartrending stuff. The play tells the story of the platonic-turned-romantic relationship of David and Beth, both married with children, who watch their families fall apart at the hands of their liaison. The show opens Friday, March 11, and runs through March 27. Wright, an Emmy-nominated writer for Six Feet Under, will participate in a discussion after the 3 p.m. show on Sunday, March 13. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For a tickets and showtimes, call 713-527-0220 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $25 to $35. Julia Ramey
You can't leave a production of Handel's Messiah feeling down, even if you broke your Lenten resolution three days in. Mercury Baroque and Core Performance Company combine period instruments with barefoot contemporary dancers to update the classic piece (yes, it's the one with "Hallelujah") at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For tickets and information, call 713-862-5530 or visit www.uniquelyhouston.org. $25 to $35. - Julia Ramey
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