The Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Shrunken Heads & Space Junk

Disgusting, right? But also pretty awesome. We're looking forward to viewing the shrunken heads and animal mummies over at HMNS (we heard there's a fish, a dog and a baby crocodile) and unlocking the secrets of ancient civilizations. On the futuristic end of the spectrum, we've got the world's first drone play, a pub crawl, and METdance's season opener. And since all the world's a stage, don't miss our reviewer's favorites with Obsidian's The Motherfu**er With the Hat and Opera in the Heights's Die Fledermaus.

If you're tired of watching plays performed by, you know, people, this Friday offers another option with the premiere of the play Space Junk: Do People Dream of Electric Children? Instead of using human actors on-stage, all of the characters in the one-act comedy are performed by drones. Yes, you read that right: drones, as in the flying aircraft operated by remote control. But don't worry, Judgment Day isn't here yet – humans are still involved in the production. Three off-stage actors voice the drones, while others act as pilots. Koomah, the self-described intersex-bodied trans/queer artist and performer, voices the commander, while writer and voice actor Stephanie Saint Sanchez's navigator drone is Latina. Space Junk follows a trio of drones on a spaceship who, a century after a mysterious disaster wiped out the ship's human crew, are still running simulations to try to prevent another disaster. However, the drones have yet to find any other humans and have started to turn a little…strange. The drones mimic human behavior in order to puzzle out what makes people, and all intelligent life, tick. Of course, the writers aren't unaware of how politically controversial their choice of medium is: The whole plot of the play is almost an ironic commentary – instead of killing or spying on people, Space Junk's drones are looking to save people, Koomah points out.

7 p.m. Friday. Continues at 7 p.m. September 24, 30 and October 1; 2 p.m. September 25 and October 2. The Pilot on Navigation, 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-649-2096 or visit Facebook or Eventbrite. $6 to $15.

The artists of METdance don’t need Flavor Flav to get the people going, according to the company’s artistic director, Marlana Doyle. The company’s 21st-season opener, United in Dance, features works from American choreographers Larry Keigwin (New York) and Margot Gelber (Houston). Gelber’s Significantly Other “is really cute,” says Doyle. And very human, she adds. You’ll see more gestural movements than you’re used to, like a dancer adjusting her bra or nervously fixing her dress, along with touches of comedy. Also on the program are works from Italian choreographer Caterina Rago and Polish choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska, who bring a more somber tone. Skarpetowska’s Snow Playground mimics the swirling winds and rings of winter snow. “It’s very picturesque. It’s really beautiful,” says Doyle. Pro tip: Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy this free performance at Discovery Green this Friday.

7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For information, call 713-522-6375 or visit Free. 

Stephen Adly Guirgis's coruscating The Motherfu**er With the Hat (2011), filling Obsidian Theater's intimate space with choked laughter and surprised, bated intakes of life-affirming breaths, takes raw to new heights. It transcends it. The entire title can't be printed in any genteel press, but the offending four-letter, 16th-century obscenity is repeated by every character until it's a mantra. But there's another four-letter word swirling through the play, just not used so frequently or with such cavalier abandon. It's what these losers, falling headfirst into a hell of their own making, so desperately want. The word, of course, is "love." Hot, dirty, brazen, this is not your father's sex farce. This isn't even your grandfather's sex farce. This is something wildly dirt-smeared and original, yet somehow comforting in a disquieting way. What the hell's gonna happen next? This is grunge Feydeau via dirty needle jab. And like the method used by that grand master farceur, the archetypes appear – with a vengeance but updated to skid row: the philandering husband, the neglected wife, the best buddy with his own nefarious agenda, the outlying cousin, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, red herrings, false facades. Everybody wants what somebody else has. Everybody's on the make. Under James Belcher's razor-sharp direction, the ensemble is eye-opening perfect and accurate, and never makes a false move. Vice in ironic 3-D. This is challenging theater, to be sure, but if you're up for such stimulating provocation this Saturday, this play about love gone wrong is fu**ing exceptional. 

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Continuing 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through October 15. Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak. For more information, call 832-889-7837 or visit $15 to $30.

We had two Saturday pub crawls on the docket and, while one bowed out, the stalwarts at Houston Dynamo are keepin' on with the fun. The Downtown Dynamo Pub Crawl sets sail from BBVA Compass Stadium, giving sports-minded revelers five pregame drinks and a lower level ticket to the Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers match-up for just $38. With stops at Dean's (Shock Top), Boots 'n Shoots (ZiegenBock), Shay McElroy's Irish Pub (Goose Island IPA) and the Bud Light Beer Garden on Orange Avenue, you just might find yourself screaming "forever orange" until your voice gives out. The game kicks off at 8 p.m., and we recommend hitting the concession stand for some good old-fashioned soak-it-up food. There are only four big home games remaining this season, and it all starts this Saturday. Game on.

3 p.m. Saturday. BBVA Compass Stadium, 2200 Texas. For information, call 713-547-3000 or visit $38. 

Is there any other opera in the rep that so resembles champagne as the heady, intoxicating Die Fledermaus? Opera in the Heights's production is certainly vintage in sound; maestro Eiki Isomura keeps his sprightly tuned orchestra just this side of grand cru; while director Bill Fabris supplies the bubbles. The only thing that's flat is the execrable libretto – in English, no less – by Ruth and Thomas Martin, who shoehorn words into Strauss's evanescent melodic cadence with a backhoe. If you can, try not to listen to the words. You really don't need them, because Strauss's tunes are so giddy and glittering. In this spicy, sexy tale, marital fidelity gets a bashing. Although husband Eisenstein must serve a five-day prison sentence, he receives an invitation to a swanky masked ball thrown by Russian Prince Orlovsky. He's hot to get there to meet the girls. He'll go to the party first, then go to jail. Meanwhile, wife Rosalinda is being pestered by former lover Alfredo. Everyone's on the make. All this is an elaborate ruse set up by Eisenstein's friend Falke, who's out for comic revenge for a prank Eisenstein pulled on him at a previous party. Adultery and champagne – what a combo, how Viennese. The young and vivacious cast is first-rate and leaps into the party mood with abandon. This most refreshing operetta waltzes right into the heart. Heady and potent, Strauss's stage masterpiece leaves one thoroughly contented and slightly woozy, smiling all the while at the fun of it. Champagne's ready, and Saturday's our last chance before Die Fledermaus closes. Okay, OH, pour the bubbly!

7:30 p.m. Saturday. Opera in the Heights, 1703 Heights. For information, call 713?861?5303 or visit $15 to $75 . 

What secrets do mummies hold? Find out with Mummies of the World: The Exhibition. This traveling exhibit is “digging in” to showcase human and animal mummified remains from every region of the world, including Europe, South America and ancient Egypt. “Physical anthropologists can extract info from an individual and reconstruct the things about their lives — even if there wasn’t any writing or tombstone that accompanied them,” says Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at hosting venue Houston Museum of Natural Science. “It’s a CSI-like investigation, and it’s really interesting.” Expect state-of-the-art multimedia, hands-on interactive stations and cutting-edge 3-D animation to take visitors on a 4,500-year journey to explore the mummies’ history and origins as well as how they were created, both through natural and intentional practices. This is one of the most popular museum exhibitions traveling North America, with more than 1.5 million having already viewed it, and now it's our turn this Sunday.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. September 24 through May 29. 5555 Hermann Park. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit $12 to $30. 

Sam Byrd, D.L. Groover, Katricia Lang and Carter Sherman contributed to this post.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney