Gasp by Marilyn Minter
Gasp by Marilyn Minter
Collection of Anita Sayed, Denver

The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Latin Wave 10, Bill Maher and More

Start your weekend with a Friday visit to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's "Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty" exhibit. Minter has long challenged our conceptions about physical beauty through her hyperrealistic paintings and photography. featuring more than 25 examples of her work. "She's been a very strong conceptual political painter. She looks at the underside of fashion, beauty and celebrity," said Bill Arning, director of CAMH, who co-curated the show along with Elissa Auther of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. (The show was co-organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.)

The artist is not afraid to show a dirty heel in an expensive shoe, or zoom in so close to a face that its imperfections become magnified. Her work is often seductive, and last year she published the book Marilyn Minter: Plush, containing 70 photographs of female pubic hair. "The main impetus for the show is because she's become super-famous over the past decade," said Arning. "We want to show that she's been around for 40 years. We also have some of her earliest bodies of work; a group of black and white photographs from a Playboy magazine series that she did. Feminists and early gay activists published in Playboy in the 1960s; it was where intellectual writing took place."

CAMH has purchased a billboard on Jack Street bearing one of Minter's images, a soft-focus close-up of lips. "Those who don't know that it's art won't know what to think," said Arning. "It's a wild image. It's unexpected."

See "Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty" at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Through August 2. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713-284-8250 or visit camh.org. Free.

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Sand Dollars
Sand Dollars
Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

On Saturday we suggest spending some time with Geraldine Chaplin at the award winning LATIN WAVE: New Films from Latin America festival. She'll be at the festival to introduce Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán's eloquent drama Sand Dollars (Dólares de arena). Set in a Dominican Republic beach town, the film follows an older Frenchwoman (Chaplin) who's hopelessly in love with a 20-year-old local beauty (Yanet Mojica). The two women are caught in an endless power struggle. Affection, youth, sex and sophistication are all treated like commodities to be bought and sold.

Chaplin has earned glowing reviews for her subtle, nuanced performance. She brings a depth to her character that reveals her obsession with the young woman is not only an impossible dream but also the only thing that makes sense in her empty, lonely life.

Sand Dollars is just one of the highlights of LATIN WAVE, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's annual celebration of cutting-edge films by emerging and established Latin American filmmakers. There are back-to-back screenings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Producer Elena Greenlee (Manos sucias) and filmmakers Juan Martin Hsu (La salada) and Isidora Marras (I Am Not Lorena) will also be on hand to introduce their own films. The festival includes five feature debuts by emerging talents, among them the Mexican coming-of-age story Gueros by Alonso Ruiz Palacios and the examination of the immigrant experience in Argentina La Salada by Juan Martin Hsu.

On Friday, Finding Gaston screens at 5 p.m.; I Am Not Lorena (presented by Isidora Marras) at 7 p.m.; and La Salada (presented by Juan Martin Hsu) at 9 p.m. On Saturday, Behavior at screens 1 p.m.; The Kid (presented by Geraldine Chaplin) at 3 p.m.; Manos sucias (presented by Elena Greenlee) at 5 p.m.; Sand Dollars (presented by Geraldine Chaplin) at 7 p.m.; and Los hongos at 9 p.m. On Sunday, Gueros screens at 1 p.m.; La Salada (presented by Juán Martín Hsu) at 3 p.m.; Jauja at 5 p.m.; Voice Over at 7 p.m.; and Finding Gaston at 9 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $10.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Photo by Marie Noelle Robert

With her pastry shop on the decline and the prospect of a life sinking even further into poverty, Mrs. Lovett decides upon drastic, gruesome measures to keep her business going and to try to improve her fortunes in life. Yes, it's Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which closes this weekend. The show's one of our choices for Saturday. Susan Bullock plays the lethal lady in Houston Grand Opera's upcoming production of the story of the woman who's not above popping a little human flesh into her pies and the disturbed man who becomes embroiled in her enterprise. This venture is a first for Bulllock, an opera singer who's done everything from Puccini's Madame Butterfly to Wagner's Ring to Strauss's Elektra (considered one of the bloodiest operas, so maybe it was good training for her role in Sweeney Todd). "It's very challenging. Sondheim is very clever. He's a genius and his music is tricky. It's really quite difficult music. The words are incredible and just the odd change of the rhyme," Bullock says. "Then there's all the spoken dialogue. In my normal repertoire, I don't speak a word. And I have to conquer a Cockney accent."

Bullock, who grew up in Manchester, England, the daughter of two police officers, said she was originally going to be a pianist but she had to have two "arts" areas to apply to a local academy, and when the people there heard her sing, they told her she might want to rethink that.

Describing her character, Bullock says: "She's the sort of Lady Macbeth of this opera. She is the power behind the throne. She's very sharp-witted, has her eye on everything all the time. But there's also a part of her that I find quite touching. Basically, she just wants to be married and have a family, and have a normal kind of life. She really does like Toby, the young boy, but she knows in the end he is going to have to go, he's going to have to go the same way as everybody else because she's ultimately driven by a wish to elevate herself socially. She is a monster, but there are sides to her."

Asked why the show has been such a success, Bullock laughs and says: "It's ghastly, really, but people just love it. The melodies are great."

The final performances of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit houstongrandopera.org or call 713-228-6737. $18 to $370.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Latin Wave 10, Bill Maher and More
Photo by Ruth S. McCleskey

One of our choices for this Saturday is the Boiling Point Players' production of Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche (the show closes this weekend). When Boiling Point Players director Ruth McCluskey first read the play last year, she loved it but couldn't quite figure out how the nascent theater group could pull it off. Boiling Point's debut season last year consisted of two shows in repertory, neither of which had serious staging or costume commitments. Contrast that with Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood's absurdest romp, which takes place in 1956 and requires both a built set and period pieces.

"It has such phenomenal characters and was a great story," says McCluskey. "So, I finally just said, yeah, we're up for the -challenge." She says Five Lesbians is about friendships and obstacles and accepting who you are. "We're dedicated to offering opportunities for women, bringing more of them to the stage and doing shows about their issues" she says. "And here was this play about five strong women, these really funny women. I just knew we had to do this."

The final performances of Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche are set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Studio 101, 1824 Spring Street. For information, visit boilingpointplayers.com. $15.

Bill Maher
Bill Maher
Photo by David Becker/Wire Image

Fans of political comedy, rejoice! Veteran stand-up Bill Maher will be visiting Houston for a one-night stand this Sunday. The critically acclaimed but polarizing satirist is known to most for his work as host of the 11-time Emmy-nominated Real Time with Bill Maher, which has aired on HBO since 2003. Before that, Maher hosted the canceled-too-soon ABC roundtable program Politically Incorrect, which ended in 2002.

Maher hasn't been to Houston for several years. When asked why, the sharp-tongued comic replies: "You gotta wait. Like a farmer, you gotta let the field lie fallow for a while before planting new crops. Because comedy is sort of the opposite of music," Maher muses. "When I see The Rolling Stones are going back on tour, [I think] well, they'd better play 'Satisfaction.' And you know they've gotta be sick of playing 'Satisfaction,' but with music, you have got to play the oldies. Comedy is the exact opposite."

While the expected constant joke turnover might appear stressful to some, Maher seems to find it liberating. "I'm a comedy fan. And when I see [a comic], I want to see the new. You know, the great thing about the comedy I do is that it's always changing. It's a lot harder if you're just an observation comedian, like most comedians are. Talking about evergreen everyday subjects [is a challenge]," Maher admits. "But I'm talking out of a newspaper. My shit changes all the time!"

Always comfortable behind the mike, Maher has actively kept up his stand-up tour schedule and has recorded ten specials for HBO including 2007's The Decider, 2010's But I'm Not Wrong and his most recent, Live from DC, which was HBO's highest-rated comedy special in five years.

See Bill Maher at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Bayou Music Center (formerly Verizon Wireless Theater), 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit bayoumusiccenter.com. $37.50 to $97.50.

Margaret Downing, Holly Beretto, Susie Tommaney and Vic Shuttee contributed to this post.

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