The Colored Museum George C. Wolfe of the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Joseph Papp Public Theatre took home Tonys for his own Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk (A Tap/Rap Discourse on the Staying Power of the Beat) and for his direction of Tony Kushner's superb Angels in America. In Museum, which the New York Times labeled "black black comedy," Wolfe is armed with an eye filled with blood and a quiver full of barbed arrows, and his aim is to bring down the overinflated dirigible of racial stereotypes; the ones arrayed in the playwright's aesthetic institution include unwed mothers who are barely past puberty themselves, shell-shocked war vets, slang-slinging dopes and hairdressers and similar walking cliches. At least in its press materials, the company producing the play locally soft-soaps Wolfe's hard-edged satire -- something to take under advisement, though the troupe does have to sell tickets. Opening previews are scheduled at 7:30 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The official opening is on January 29; the production continues through March 1. The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, 520-0055. $12-$25.
"David McGee: Black Comedies and Night Music" Louisiana-born, Houston-reared McGee is a traditionalist who uses nontraditional means in pursuit of his artistic end: an exploration of the "grand history of painting and African-American culture and heritage." Among the oils and works on paper in the exhibit -- McGee's first solo show at a major museum -- are homages to French painter and fellow classicist Jacques Louis David (Lush Life) and to star-crossed gangsta Tupac Shakur (Thug Life). Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today; the show's up through March 1 (see Thrills for other dates and times). The Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Free.
Ascendancy The latest piece by New York's Gary Bonasorte (Killing Real Estate Women; The Marie Antoinette Society) is an offshoot of the playwright's work with the Big Apple-based Community Research Initiative on AIDS and the many hope-bound and despair-wracked characters he's encountered during his long affiliation with that organization. Though the play uses the AIDS plague as both backdrop and emotional centerpiece -- it's set at a free clinic during a drug trial -- Ascendancy is, as its title suggests, more concerned with the affirmation of life than the negation of death. Opening performances are at 8 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday. The run continues through February 15. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 101, 527-0220. $10-$28 (Advantix: 1-800-776-6048).
Madame Butterfly Butterfly's 1904 premiere at La Scala was something short of a rousing success, but Puccini's lush tragedy about the geisha named Cio-Cio-San and her ill-fated marriage to the American naval officer Pinkerton has become a repertory staple. This version by the Houston Grand Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello, is billed as an examination of "the cultural clash between Japanese medievalism and American mercantilism at the turn of the century." American soprano Paula Delligatti sings the title role; British tenor Paul Charles Clarke plays Pinkerton (their alternates are British soprano Susan Bullock and Ukrainian tenor Vladimir Grishko). The production's performed in Italian with English surtitles. The Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, conducted by Vjekoslav Sutej, provides the accompaniment. Opening performances are at 7:30 tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. The run continues through February 15. Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $20-$175 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
Pterodactyls Philadelphia-born playwright Nicky Silver is fast building a reputation as the stage's clown prince of dysfunction; his Food Chain is inhabited by a most disgusting crew of self-obsessed fools and indigestible, emotionally weightless wretches. Only slightly less rank are the Duncans, the hard-shopping, -drinking and -conniving old-money family at the black heart of Silver's Pterodactyls -- a well-aimed stab at American convention that's receiving its Houston premiere. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and the same time Saturday. The run continues through February 28. Masquerade Theatre, 720 West 11th, 861-7063. $15, $12 for students and seniors.
"Boxed Set" Consider the lowly box, that unadorned friend of those on the move. A consortium of Houston artistic types has so considered, and this multimedia event is the result. Various visual artists, including Lucy Wylie, Richard Sanchez, Bruce Cao and Curt Hill, have contributed hand-painted works on cardboard to a "synergic" exhibit that opens tonight and continues through February 14. Performances of related one-act plays -- Holly Hildebrand's Four Panes of Glass, Diana Melson Howie's Jackson Square and Jeremy Johnson's Direct from Broadway! Winner of Seven Tonys! -- are scheduled; opening shows are at 8 tonight and the same time Friday and Saturday, with more planned through February 14. P.S. The boxes will be sold "for reasonable amounts." The Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, 222-2866. $10. (Note: For details about another artist working in the cardboard medium, see "Dona Provi's Garden" party under Sunday.)
The Gold Rush Some will argue the point, but we maintain that this 1925 Chaplin work could be the best piece of work ever committed to celluloid. How to top the original Sir Charles's sublime "dance of the rolls" or the Little Tramp's other timeless misadventures in the Great White North? The film rolls at 7:30 p.m. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5.
Jose Greco II Flamenco Dance Company As a dancer, the offspring of flamenco master Jose Greco and Lola de Ronda was to the manor born. Greco Younger makes his Houston debut as a troupe leader with shows at 8 tonight and the same time Saturday; his company also includes sibs Lola and Carmela. Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $22-$32 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The Houston Symphony's "Seeing Sounds/Hearing Colors" Conductor-in-residence Stephen Stein leads the orchestra in this educational/outreach program about the relationship between the audio and the visual. The wonderfully unconventional bill of fare, designed for kids ages four to 12 and their parents, includes performances of the Blue movement from Sir Arthur Bliss's A Colour Symphony, Steve Heitzeg's excerpts from Nine Surrealist Studies (after Salvador Dali), Michael Torke's Bright Blue Music, three separate versions of the Promenade from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and additional movements from Ravel's orchestration of the latter piece. Showtime is 10:30 a.m.; preconcert activities begin at 9:30. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. $3-$10 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
"Dona Provi's Garden" Party Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell has created a small patch of luxuriant beauty, modeled after his native island, from detritus; he calls "Dona Provi's Garden (a cardboard fantasy)," his exercise in artistic recycling, a "cardboard garden made of discarded home-appliance boxes ... [and] the raw or overcooked stuff from which consumers' dreams are made." An opening celebration, featuring Puerto Rican sounds and kids' activities, is slated for 2 to 4 p.m.; Martorell offers welcoming remarks at 2:30. The installation is displayed through February 15. The Rice University Art Gallery, 6100 Main (in Sewall Hall), 527-6069. Free.
"Local Spin: Independent Houston Filmmakers" The series of "low- and no-budget" videos and films by local auteurs, a sequel to 1995's similar "First Look" showcase, continues at 7 p.m. with six oddball shorts ranging in length from two to 20 minutes and in subject matter from Tim Thomson's music vid White Bunnies (starring Houston's own Truth Decay) to Todd Jones's The Usher (an absurdist little morality tale about cinematic litter). Also screening: Jacob Vaughn's Jesus of Judson, Soodabeh Babcock's Needlephobia, John Mark Davis's Crime of Passion and Tim Thomson/Chris Hogan's Dwelling. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5.
Factory district tour The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance hosts this docent-guided walking tour of the historic commercial district located north of downtown between Buffalo Bayou, the Elysian Street Viaduct, I-10 and Main Street. Stops include the McKee Street Bridge, the Willow Street Pumping Station, the original Henke grocery store, the Erie City Iron Works, the Southern Pacific freight building and the remains of Frost Town. The tour steps off at 2 p.m. at 810 San Jacinto. 216-5000. $7, $5 for GHPA members, free for kids under 12.
Four Seasons "Literary Luncheon" featuring Ben Mezrich The annual spate of author readings/minglings/munchings kicks off from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with an appearance by Mezrich, who's touting his new techno-thriller, Reaper -- a Michael Crichton-style novel about an Outbreak-like virus that's spread via televisions and personal computers. Reservations are required; the meal is included in the price of admission. The Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar, 652-6210. $35.
big -- the musical Does anybody else find this recent, Disney-led big-screen-to-Broadway role reversal an alarming trend? Here's another case in point: As Tom Hanks was the heart and soul of the 1988 movie this touring production was based on, it's doubtful that a batch of new songs, melded with a few holdovers from the original Great White Way production, can recapture the simple elegance of Penny Marshall's film. And, truthfully, that's not what this adaptation is about. If it's simple elegance you crave, head for a video store and plop down a few bucks; if it's splashy bombast with a steep price tag, this "energized" mutation is for you. The revamped score is by David Shire (music) and Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics); John Weldman wrote the book. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and the same time Wednesday; more shows are scheduled January 29 through February 1. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. $39.50-$45.50; children under 18 get in free on opening night with an adult's purchase of a full-price ticket (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
"A Visit to the Byzantine Fresco Chapel" featuring Dominique de Menil The late, lamented grande dame of the Houston art world -- who brought light, grace and healthy doses of sass and singularity to the bottom-line, anything-but-graceful business of arts patronship -- was joined by her son, Francois de Menil, on this program exploring the de Menils' 13-year struggle to restore and relocate a series of 12th-century Byzantine frescoes, believed to be the only such pieces in the U.S. In honor of Dominique's passing, the show's rerun at 2:30 p.m. on Access Houston Community Television (Warner Channel 17, TCI Channel 41, Phonoscape Channel 72 or Optel Channel 7).
Denis Johnson and Leslie Adrienne Miller Well-known poet/news correspondent/novelist Johnson (Angels and Already Dead: A California Gothic) joins promising poet Miller (Yesterday Had a Man in It) for a dual reading at 8 p.m., continuing the Margarett Root Brown Houston Reading Series. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5, free for students and seniors.
"The Nuts and Bolts of Frankenstein: Viewing Films Cinematically" Dr. Lou Markos of Houston Baptist University dissects director James Whale's 1931 horror gem -- which will be shown in toto -- with this technical analysis, held in conjunction with the MPH Lyceum Lecture Series. The event starts at 7 p.m. The Museum of Printing History, 1324 West Clay, 522-4652. $10, free for MPH members.
"Thanks for the Dream": Tribute to Hakeem Olajuwon The Tall Guy in the Middle is feted by the Houston chapter of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants at this tripartite fundraiser for Olajuwon's Dream Foundation, CPAs Helping Schools and Odyssey House Texas. Special guests at the black-tie-optional benefit include ESPN-TV'sRoy Firestone, Hakeem's fellow Rocket Clyde Drexler and former University of Houston basketball coach Guy Lewis; Rockets announcer Gene Peterson isthe master of ceremonies. The event starts with a reception at 6:30 p.m. The Adam's Mark Hotel, 2900 Briarpark Drive, 978-7400. $125 per person (tix: 622-7733).
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