Good comedians do more than just string together a bunch of punch lines. Good comedians give audiences something to laugh at and think about. George Lopez is a good comedian. He's also one of our choices for Friday with a two day run at Bayou City Music. Much of the Mexican-American comic's material early in his career focused on his contentious relationship with his hard-as-nails grandmother and growing up Latino. (Those routines spawned Lopez's well-known taglines "Why you crying?" and "I can't have nothing!" and inspired his successful television sitcom.) As Lopez's career took off, he developed new concerns and new routines. (He often imitated his California rich-kid daughter: "Oh, my gwad, Dad, you sound soooooo Mexican.)
After a health scare and then a divorce, Lopez seemed to dedicate himself to talking shit and naming names. Anti-immigration sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona, made for an easy target. (In his HBO special, It's Not Me, It's You, Lopez blasted the closed border advocate: "Sheriff Joe, in California, fuck you! Fuck that puto!") Lopez has a two-night run in Houston during which he'll no doubt share more about his personal life and political views.
See George Lopez at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713‑230‑1600 or visit bayoumusiccenter.com. $49.50 to $61.
Another choice for Friday is the Bayou City Theatrics production of Brooklyn: The Musical. The show has been called a "sidewalk fairy tale" and since all fairy tales have happy endings, we're not giving anything away when we say the show's lead character, an orphaned Parisian teen in search of her wayward father, gets her happily-ever-after. It just doesn't look like the happily-ever-after that audiences might expect.
The cast is led by 14-year-old Houstonian Mallory Bechtel, a vocal powerhouse who already has years of experience onstage. Bechtel plays Brooklyn, a girl all alone in the world with nothing to her name but the unfinished lullaby that her mother used to sing to her. She sets out to find the one person who can help her complete the song, her long-missing dad. After she lands in New York (her name is the only clue she has to find her father), the singing starts.
Brooklyn is a musical inside a musical: The show is set on a street corner at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge where a ragtag group of performers known as the City Weeds tell the Parisian girl's story during a sidewalk performance. Brooklyn is also something of a fairy tale inside a fairy tale.
The show's creators, Barri McPherson and Mark Schoenfeld, had worked together on an album more than 25 years ago. The two lost touch until 2002, when McPherson, by then a mom and club singer, spotted Schoenfeld singing on a street corner in Brooklyn. She took him back to her home in Massachusetts, invited him to live with her family and the two started turning out songs about his life on the streets of New York. Those songs grew into Brooklyn: The Musical, which eventually made its way to Broadway. We're sure Bechtel will eventually make her way to Broadway, too.
The Bayou City Theatrics production, being performed at the company's new downtown home The Kaleidoscope, has a very short run so make your plans accordingly.
This story continues on the next page.
The juror for this year's "The Big Show" at Lawndale Art Center is Erin Elder, visual art director at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The annual exhibit, which has it's opening reception and awards presentation on Friday, started in 1984. It features the works of local artists living within 100 miles of Houston. Elder saw 981 original submissions by 392 artists. Of those, 115 works by 106 different artists made it into the show. "It is truly inspiring to learn that so many people express themselves creatively through visual art," says Christine West, Lawndale's executive director. "Whether they choose to make a living doing it, do it as a hobby or do it simply because they have a basic need to create -- because they simply have to."
West is excited for the public to see the finalists and for the participating artists to see the public. "As an artist, being able to share their work and experience viewers responses to their work is a huge part of creative expression," she adds. "I feel strongly that experiencing art brings the creative process full circle, influencing both the artist and the viewer."
There's an opening reception with the artists starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Award winners will be announced at 7 p.m. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through August 9. 4912 Main. For information, call 713‑528‑5858 or visit lawndaleartcenter.org. Free.
Playwright and frequent Houston Press contributor Abby Koenig tells us her latest work, the black comedy Spaghetti Code, was inspired by but not exactly based on her own life. Koenig and her husband struggled for years with infertility. It was, she says, rough going. "You spend most of your waking moments thinking about babies and you start to blame yourself. Every little thing you did or do, you question if it is affecting your fertility. You become kinda crazy. It's a slow boil, though, but all of a sudden I found myself trying anything. Like drinking fertility shakes with bee pollen; I'm not kidding."
In Spaghetti Code, which has its world premiere on Saturday, a woman arranges for her husband and best friend to conceive a child the natural way (with sex and everything). Nothing could go wrong with that plan, right? Koenig and her husband had eventually started talking about adoption and surrogacy. "My family and friends were all very supportive and offered their eggs or to be a surrogate, etc.
"And it got me thinking, how far would I go? If I would be willing to adopt a baby that was someone else's and if I could give my husband the opportunity to have the baby have his DNA, and...If I could pick the woman he would have the baby with? Would I do that? That's where this play came from. How far would you go to have a baby? Would you ask your husband and best friend to sleep together? I wouldn't, for the record!"
Thankfully she didn't have to. Less than a month after finishing Spaghetti Code, Koenig found out she was pregnant with twins. Both boys are happy and healthy...and keeping their mom up late at night.
Two women in the late 1920s are living their expected upper-class lives as wives when they get word that a man from their past is coming to see them. And not just any man, but a French charmer named Maurice whom each of the women had a fling with at different times in their prior lives. The two best friends spend the day together waiting while their husbands -- described as passionless -- are out playing golf.
In Noel Coward's Fallen Angels, our choice for Sunday, the behavior of the friends, Julia and Jane, played by Crystal O'Brien and Lisa Villegas respectively, gets increasingly hilarious as the women apply themselves to champagne in increasing amounts during the wait, quarreling and making up, and then, of course, the husbands arrive back early.
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This is a play that Claire Hart-Palumbo and Main Street Theater have been wanting to do for a long time -- "12 years, in fact," according to the director. It took them that long to get and keep the rights (taken away once by another theater company with more pull, Hart-Palumbo says). "Of all of Coward's plays of the upper class behaving badly, this is the only one whose two leads are women," she says.
The director is considered something of an authority on Coward's work and says she likes it so much because of his clever language. "I prefer to be entertained by people who are smarter than I am," she says. The three-act play comes in at around two and a half hours total running time and also boasts a maid, Saunders (played by Elizabeth Marshall Black), who has a lot of advice to hand out.
See Fallen Angles at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Through August 10. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, call 713‑524‑6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $20 to $39.
Margaret Downing and Bob Ruggiero contributed to this post.