Press Picks

march 3
La Nona ("The Granny") Steve Garfinkel continues to behave strangely. First, he directed Julius Caesar in a style that, although it succeeded, would be called strange by any normal person. Now he appears onstage as an old woman. To be fair, this is not "Old Mother Riley Live": La Nona playwright Roberto Cossa suggests that the title role in his dark comedy be played by a man.

This wicked allegory centers on the misadventures of an Italian immigrant family in mid-'70s Argentina. The country was, you may remember, misusing its human and other resources. (PBS and the Discovery Channel are still running shows about forensic scientists working in mass graves, attempting to identify the "disappeared.") Granny, too, is rather greedy, and her family foolishly attempts to satisfy the insatiable matriarch. Opening tonight, 7:30 p.m. Thru March 27. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd., 524-6706. $10-$15.

march 4
Swan Lake This is your nearly-last chance to see Houston Ballet's popular production of this beloved work. Artistic Director Ben Stevenson choreographed the production, which features the Ballet's own Janie Parker and Li Cunxin. (Peter "RoboCop" Weller is a huge Cunxin fan.) Parker will dance as both the bewitched Princess Odette and the sorcerer's daughter Odile.

It is worth noting that tonight Houstonians may attend not only the world's largest rodeo, but also a performance by a world-renowned ballet company. If you're still insecure about our town's offerings, note this: The New York Times and the New York Post have lavished praise on the Houston Ballet's Swan Lake. According to the Times, we have "a lively, possibly controversial version of Swan Lake, that proved increasingly fascinating as it progressed." New York Post critic Clive Barnes calls it a "really splendid, traditional, highly intelligent production." 7:30 p.m. (Also Sat., March 5, 7:30 & Sun., March 6, 2 p.m.) Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, 227-ARTS. $8-$70.

march 5
Meet a bat man Most kids wonder what it would be like to have a squirrel monkey, meerkat or vampire bat as a pet. In the Houston Zoo's Meet the Keepers series, the curators explain about the special care these animals need. Today Steve Howard, senior keeper of small mammals, will explain what he does all day and what the animals are really like, and he'll allow some lucky children to pet exotic creatures. This early-morning program is geared for children from 6 to 12 and their families. It's a great time to join the Zoo, sign up for discovery classes or adopt an animal. (The animal stays in the zoo; the adopters get a certificate and a tax break.) Anyone who adopts an animal today will get a personally guided tour of the small-mammal house later.

After the program, families can check out the white alligator briefly on loan from Louisiana. This is a leucistic reptile, lacking all pigment but white. (He's not an albino -- albinos have red eyes, and his are blue.) There are plans to breed this boy, one of 17 in the world, and his brothers to ordinary female 'gators. (Siegfried and Roy have not suggested, at least not publicly, that white 'gators are needed for their Las Vegas show.)

Presentation and slide show, 9 a.m. Brown Education Center Auditorium, Houston Zoo, Hermann Park, 529-3632. $5, $2 Zoological Society Members .

Azalea trails are here again The 59th Annual River Oaks Garden Club Azalea Trail begins today. This year's highlight is the opening of the recently restored Bayou Bend Collection and the lovely 14-acre gardens of Ms. Hogg's former home. As always, the private homes on the tour are new and different, and this year the tour stretches to the Rice University area. Lemonade stands and horse-drawn carriages add to the good ol' summertime feel. Amateur horticulturists can stop by the "Ask the Experts" tent at the Garden Club HQ. Homes will be open today, tomorrow and next weekend. Proceeds go to civic projects. Tickets are on sale at area nurseries, Randall's stores and the River Oaks Garden Club, 2503 Westheimer, 523-2483. $12 advance, $15 from today on.

march 6
I am Glad Daylong... This poetry reading will be held in conjunction with the Blaffer Gallery's "I Remember: Images of the Civil Rights Movement, 1963-1993." Lorenzo Thomas, writer in residence and assistant professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown, has coordinated this event featuring the works of Sekou Karanja and Bobbie Wallace-Wright. 3-Ð5 p.m. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, entrance 16 off Cullen, 743-9530. Free.

Enter the Storybook World of Spaulding Sue Finley, chairperson of this event, invites Houstonians to "become a child for charity in a night of fantasy and fun when you 'Enter the Storybook World of Spaulding for Children.' " The Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet have donated costumes for the storybook characters who will roam the halls of the Children's Museum. Guests will enjoy a buffet, a treasure hunt and the jazz of Cy Brinson. Your donations -- proceeds from admission and the silent action -- will benefit Spaulding, Houston's only private, no-fee adoption agency to place children with special needs in permanent homes and provide post-adoption support for families. The hosts invite you to come as your favorite storybook character. 7-10 p.m. The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 681-6991. $40.

march 7
Houston Composers Alliance open reading Da Camera, DiverseWorks and the Composers Alliance present new scores by local composers. This is the first of two readings and the first public leg of a competition to last all spring.

Hopeful local composers submitted 28 entries. The field has been narrowed to ten; five will be read tonight, and audience and performers will be asked to rank the works. The top scorers in this reading -- and the other reading, on April 6 -- will perform in Da Camera's 1995 spring "After 1910" series. Seating is limited. 7:30 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 524-7601. Free.

march 8
Jeffrey Stages will host a special performance of the Paul Rudnick play. This exclusive showing, to benefit the Community Endowment Foundation, includes a cast party after the show. CEF is a Houston-area nonprofit group dedicated to addressing the housing needs of people with HIV and AIDS. Their motto is "Our Hearts are in Housing." Rudnick, who penned both Addams Family films for the big screen, has a slightly sillier attitude -- at least on the surface.

Jeffrey (reviewed in this week's Press) is a comedy about a man who would like very much not to deal with AIDS at all. Reserved seating only. Performance at 7 p.m., cast party in the lobby following the show. Stages, 3201 Allen Parkway, 528-0037. $30.

march 9

Hear about reading aloud St. Luke's Day School invites parents, teachers and everyone interested in literacy and education to hear bestselling author Jim Trelease. The National Commission on Reading agrees that reading aloud with and to children is the most effective way to raise a reader. Trelease, the author of The New Read-Aloud Handbook, will demonstrate simple techniques for reading aloud and discuss ways to fight the untoward influences of television. This is about, not for, children; St. Luke's would prefer that parents attend without their kids. 7:30-9 p.m. St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer, 297-5297. $5.

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Edith Sorenson