The Threepenny Opera Mack the Knife (a.k.a. the outlaw Macheath, a.k.a. Kurt Weill's "Mackie Messer") reigns as overlord of London's crime underworld in Bertolt Brecht's most famous conception, a satirical adaptation of John Gay's Bierhalle standard The Beggar's Opera that really got under the Nazis' collective skin. There are other things to recommend the work, of course -- Weill's excellent score, for one -- but none better. This version is co-presented by Infernal Bridegroom Productions and Goethe Institut Houston as part of the Brecht homage mentioned under Thursday. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and Saturday. The production continues through March 28. The Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, 222-2866. More info: 522-8443. $9.99.
"Essential Cinema: A Survey of the American Avant-Garde" The Austin Film Society organized this in-depth introduction to the short-lived, surrealism-inspired U.S. movement in the direction of cinematic experimentation and independence. The series opens with a program titled 1940s: The Pioneers, featuring Maya Deren's fantastic/fantastical Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and Kenneth Anger's bizarro wet dream Fireworks (1947), plus James Broughton's Adventures of Jimmy (1948), Sidney Peterson's The Lead Shoes (1949) and Harry Smith's Early Abstractions (1939-57). 7:30 p.m. "Essential Cinema" dovetails with an open-to-the-public class of the same name at the Glassell School of Art; it continues through April 3. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for students and seniors.
Bob Marley Festival The late reggae godhead and secular spiritual leader (Marley once outdrew the Pope in Italy) is saluted annually with this one-love traveling show, which traditionally begins in Houston and then crisscrosses the U.S. during late spring and summer. This year's fest, themed "Jammin'," includes the usual mix of music, ganja ideology (watered down for family audiences), poetry readings and arts and crafts. This year's headliners are Michael Black, the Gypsi Fari Band, Roots Awakening, Early Brooks Jr. and Jah Possie, Seefari and Natural Mystic. Noon to 10 p.m. today and Sunday. Buffalo Bayou Park, west of downtown between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive. Info: 688-3773; www.bobmarley-festival.com. $3$5 requested donation (or the equivalent in nonperishable food items; proceeds: JASA House Domestic Violence Center).
"3 from Eastern Europe" Talk about a perspicacious metaphor: The four people at the heart of Hungarian director Bela Tarr's Karhozat ("Damnation"), the film that inaugurates this series, imbibe and connive in a bar named the Titanic as the Soviet empire slips into the drink. Tarr's precognitive piece, released a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, sounds a bit like an update of Robert Sherwood's play The Petrified Forest, another allegory that marked the bitter end of an era. 7:30 tonight; 2 p.m. Sunday. "3 from Eastern Europe" continues through March 29. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for the matinee; $1 off for students and seniors.
Marky Ramone and the Intruders Marky (real name: Mark Neuman) was the original drummer for the Ramones. Now that he and his fellow Ramone "brothers" have put that seminal punk act out to pasture, Marky bashes the skins for his own outfit, whose latest incarnation includes guitarist/vocalist Ben Trokan and bassist/vocalist Johnny Pisano. The Intruders are touring with gore-core godfathers the Misfits. H2O opens. The Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue, 863-7173. $12$14 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The Azalea Trail Though we can view the lush blooms all over town early, often and free this year, thanks to El Nino and the prevailing mild weather, this 63rd annual, River Oaks Garden Club-sponsored event still promises sensory overload for buffs of the showy shrub from genus Rhododendron. You can check out the massed azaleas at eight separate stops on this year's tour, including the garden club's Forum (2503 Westheimer) and Bayou Bend (1 Westcott). Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday and the same hours March 14 and 15. Info: 523-2483; www.riveroaksgardenclub.org. $3$15; free for kids 12 and under.