It's hard to believe it's been ten years since Infernal Bridegroom Productions cobbled together its first production, In the Under Thunderloo, in the back room of the Axiom. The rangy show about cavemen and music, written by company founder Jason Nodler, brought down the house, selling out every night of its run.A lot has happened since that fertile, but decidedly scummy, beginning. The Axiom went through numerous incarnations (including one as a transvestite bar), and IBP earned a reputation for putting on cutting-edge, avant-garde theater. Last year, Nodler and his company decided to rent the old building where the madness started and reopen it as a theater. They dutifully gave the bar back its old name -- and a good scrub.
Now, in a fitting celebration of its tenth anniversary, the company is putting on a new production by Nodler. The older and wiser theater vet calls Meat/BAR his "best script ever." The story focuses on Teddy, a guy who gets sucked back into his old watering hole when he receives a strange phone call from the owner. "The whole play takes place over the course of one night in that bar," says Nodler. From happy hour to last call, 16 original songs by local musicians play over the jukebox. Meat/BAR (in which Press assistant Night & Day editor Troy Schulze has a role) delves into themes of love, sex, friendship, death, politics and art, telling the story of IBP in the process. Sort of.
According to IBP, the play is a "true story in which nothing has been changed except the facts." Nodler admits that Teddy, a theater expat, is based on himself, but he goes on to say that the play is "entirely autobiographical, in my imagination." Hmm. Fact or fiction, Nodler says, "it's the first play I've written from a completely honest place."
Meat/BAR promises to be a good time, but bring your hankie just in case. "It's got a lot of funny stuff in it, but it's not entirely a joke," says Nodler. Every time he watches it, he laughs out loud and tears up a little. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through May 31. The Axiom, 2524 McKinney, 713-522-8443, www.infernalbridegroom.com. $10 to $15; $5.99 opening weekend. -- Lee Williams
You'd think that after 50 years of choreographing performances for his dance company, Merce Cunningham might retire. But the 83-year-old continues to create dances from his wheelchair, despite his severe arthritis. This weekend, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company performs pieces old and new, including How to Kick, Pass, Fall and Run (1965), Pond Way (1998), Melange (2001) and Fluid Canvas (2002). The choreographer's works don't contain narratives, and he often uses chance techniques -- like coin tosses or computers -- to determine movement. Such methods fit perfectly with those of experimental composer John Cage, who was the company's musical director until his death in 1992. 8 p.m. Friday, May 9. Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4SPA or visit www.spahouston.org. $29 to $45. -- Cathy Matusow
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Once upon a time, a mother told her son to stop playing with his toy trains and go to bed. While he slept, the boy dreamed about a train race. Second only to Cats as Andrew Lloyd Webber's longest-running, um, musical, Starlight Express choo-choos into Houston this weekend. Thanks to technological advances, the show-on-skates has been updated. Expect more pyrotechnics, an updated score and 3D film sequences. For $25 to $68 per ticket, you deserve more than roller boogie, right? 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, from Thursday, May 8, through Sunday, May 25. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information or tickets, call 713-558-8887. -- Troy Schulze
Brothers in Harm
Don't show up at Fat Cat's expecting to see a Broadway musical about long-lost siblings. These Blood Brothers rage against debased entertainment, and that includes musicals. But there's something oddly theatrical, even catchy, in the five-piece band's grinding hard-core punk songs and frenzied shrieking. Maybe it's the surprisingly poetic lyrics -- for example, "Charred toucans weaving their black sky quilt? / Burn, piano island, burn!" -- screamed with neck veins popping. Angsty and angry, the Blood Brothers shred mainstream culture with ferociousness. 10 p.m. Sunday, May 11. Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue. For information, call 713-869-5263. $8. -- Troy Schulze