Night & Day

April 1
Step aside, Smokey Bear, Shonda Murray is here with a slightly more visceral warning about forest fires: "When you look up and see a big, huge, ten-foot flame coming, and it just consumes a pine tree and makes it explode, to me that's like it's showing what it can do," she says.
"If you cross it, or if you get in its way, it won't hesitate to do that to you." Murray is one of the brave wildland firefighters featured in Wildfire: Feel the Heat, the new IMAX film that takes you to the scene of 11 wildfires in Southern California, the northwestern United States and Australia that destroyed a combined total of 2,569,550 acres of land. Learn how elite firefighters leap from planes, rappel from helicopters, drop water bombs, cut firelines and fight fire with fire. Opens today and runs through July 31 at the Museum of Natural Science, One Hermann Circle Dr. Call (713)639-IMAX for daily showtimes and tickets. $6; $4, children; $3.50, members.

April 2
Wallace Shawn: 1. Short, bald character actor who played The Princess Bride's villain, Clueless's teacher and Manhattan's sex god. 2. Short, bald playwright. Surprised by the playwright part? "My plays are not actually performed in my own land," says Shawn. Oh, to be an unappreciated genius.... Infernal Bridegroom Productions is changing all that with the regional premiere of Shawn's Marie and Bruce, a play critic Robert Brustein called "one of the most savage assaults on the failure of American promise." Shawn may do nice movies, but he writes wonderfully nasty plays. IBP says the miserable marriage of Marie and Bruce will make you laugh and feel sick to your stomach. Recommended for mature audiences only. The play opens at 8 p.m. tonight and runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. through April 24. There's also a pay-what-you-want performance Monday, April 12, at 8 p.m. Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, (713)222-ATOM. For reservations, call (713)522-8443. $9.99; $7.99, students and seniors.

April 3
Bone Machine, according to the press release, is "a PostModern Nuclear Ballet [that] brings apocalyptic messages carried from the underworld in symbolic agricultural themes delivered to the edge of reality by unlikely messengers in hopes that the machine will not deny synthesis-escaping destruction." We have absolutely no idea what that means, but we can hazard a guess that it will be nothing like anything you've ever seen at the Wortham. Choreographed by the rebellious former Houston Ballet dancer Richard Hubscher and set to the music of Tom Waits, Bone Machine has been performed in various permutations at the Jewish Community Center, DiverseWorks and Zocalo Theater since its premiere in 1994. Now it has found a fitting home at No tsu oH's comfortably dingy Easy Credit Theater at 314 Main. 9 p.m. The performance runs Friday and Saturday nights through April 10. Call (713)224-5264 for reservations. $7-$1.

April 4
The Menil Collection's "room" may look like a typical living room -- chairs, sofas, paintings, cabinets, photographs and an always-on television set -- but in the domestic environment created by Rice University's Lars Lerup and Sohela Farokhi, things are not what they seem. Inspired by the irrational world of Samuel Beckett's 1953 novel Watt, everything in the "room" exhibit moves and mutates, including a vibrating "Wobbly Wall." Visitors are even invited to become part of the "room" by moving things around themselves. As Beckett wrote, "it was not rare to find, on the Sunday, the tallboy on its feet by the fire, and the dressing-table on its head by the bed ... and, on the Monday, the tallboy on its back by the bed, and the dressing-table on its face by the door...." Spooky. "room" is on view Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through June 6. Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, (713)525-9400. Free. For more information, see Shaila Dewan's art review, "Domestic Disturbance," on page 53.

Upcoming Events

April 5
Pro Musicis Foundation recitalists perform in prisons, nursing homes, drug treatment centers, homeless shelters and, now, at Rice University. International Prize Laureate soprano (and recent Houston transplant) Karol Bennett has been critically acclaimed for her "ravishing tone and fire of imagination." She'll perform works by Mozart, Schubert, Debussy, Ravel, Barber and Poulenc accompanied by fellow Pro Musicis Laureate, Romanian pianist Dana Ciocarlie. 8 p.m. Duncan Recital Hall, Rice University campus, entrance no. 8 (off University Boulevard). Call (713)527-4933 for more information. Free.

April 6
In Moises Kaufman's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, a prosecuting attorney asks the playwright if he had ever kissed one of the young men with whom he kept company. "Oh, dear, no," answers the witty Wilde. "He was a particularly plain boy." The notorious life of Oscar Wilde has been done before, both on stage and in the movies, but critics from New York to San Francisco say it's never been done this well. Kaufman's off-Broadway sleeper hit uses found historical materials such as the memoirs of Wilde's lover and a cast of characters ranging from Queen Victoria to a modern-day academic to chronicle the trials that scandalized the playwright and explore the still-salient issues of sexuality, morality and censorship. Jeffrey Bean stars and John Feltch directs in the Alley Theatre's production. Tonight's 7:30 p.m. performance is a pay-what-you want preview. Gross Indecency opens Wednesday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. and runs through May 1, playing Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., (713)228-8421. $31-$46.

April 7
The Flying Wallendas got their name nearly 50 years ago when an Ohio newspaper said that the aerial family fell so gracefully from the high wire that they seemed to be flying. That's right, they fell. The Wallendas are the real deal -- no safety wires, no nets. In fact, the fearless family is responsible for some of the most tragic accidents in circus history. In 1962 two aerialists died and one was paralyzed when their seven-person, high-wire pyramid wobbled in Detroit. In 1972 the Flying Wallendas' founder, Karl Wallenda, died at the age of 73 when he fell ten stories in a Puerto Rico beachfront-hotel stunt. Yet the show goes on: The Wallendas will undoubtedly be the exhilarating highlight of the Super Fine 1999 Arabia Shrine Circus opening today at the AstroArena. They're performing the high-wire human pyramid again. Hold your breath. 7:30 p.m. Also, Thursday and Friday, April 8 and 9, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 10, 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 11, 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Astroarena. Call (713)224-7287 for tickets. $10, general admission; $11 and $12, reserved seats.

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