Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and good examples can be found in our pool of presidential candidates (D.L. Hughley's in town for some skewering) and in the very strange ten-part Netflix documentary Making a Murderer (Steven Avery's defense attorneys can answer our questions). This weekend includes free performances of Puccini's Tosca at Miller Outdoor Theatre, the edgy acts at FrenetiCore’s Best of Fringe 2016, a celebration of man's best friend at Market Square Park, and the white sands of Palm Beach at Moody Gardens.
Puccini’s classic opera Tosca, complete with love, lust, revolutionary intrigue and a whole lot of death set in what appears to be 1920s Rome, will be played out at Miller Outdoor Theatre in a two-night free offering from Houston Grand Opera to the Houston-area community. Pack a picnic basket and a blanket, because this free event is one of our picks for Friday night. Baritone Weston Hurt will sing the role of Scarpia (who becomes a mob boss in this version), who lusts after the diva Tosca (soprano Kelly Kaduce), she of the enchanting voice and unfortunate jealousy of her lover, the painter Cavaradossi (tenor Chad Shelton). “Scarpia is a calculated, evil person, intelligent and brutal,” says Hurt, who grew up in Spring and went on to study music at Juilliard. Despite this, there are certain attractive qualities about him, or his scenes with Tosca just won’t work, says Hurt. The same cast will perform at both shows; they were one of two casts when the opera was produced at the Wortham Theater Center last October.
8 p.m. Friday and May 21. 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.
Theatergoers last saw Koomah as the sultry La Sirena in Las Ultimas Live!, scooting across the stage on a wheeled platform supporting the mermaid’s glittery fish tail, with strategically placed seashells for modesty. Now the self-described intersex-bodied trans/queer multidisciplinary grassroots artist and performer is set to host FrenetiCore’s Best of Fringe 2016, and it's our other pick for edgy entertainment this Friday night. The lineup includes a return of jhon r. stronks (one of our MasterMind Award winners for 2014); his Sparkle Noir performance snagged the festival’s Best Solo Performance last year for the piece that merges original text, borrowed songs and layered movement. The program also includes SonKiss’d Dance Theater’s Urbanity, Holding Space Dance Collective (formerly known as ChinaCat Dance) with an excerpt from Light Bearer, and the debut of a new dance film by FrenetiCore Dance Artistic Director Rebecca French. Also booked are the daredevil ground and aerial performers of Cirque La Vie and the smoking-hot burlesque performers from House of Dollz. Tickets for the midyear showcase include a welcome drink and admission to the after party with Caitlyn the Songstrist, plus a sneak peak at the new single-venue format for the five-day Houston Fringe Festival later this year.
8 p.m. Friday and May 21. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-387-7440 or visit freneticore.net. $15 to $20.
What could top the puppy bowl (looked like a football field, but with tons of balls) at last year’s dog-centric downtown festival, Puppies for Breakfast? “I think this year we’re going to make it look like an extreme sports park, with little tiny ramps that dogs can run up and down. A little place for dogs to play in,” says festival founder Hector Garcia. “And we’ll still have little swimming pools with water, a couple with just mounds of ice. Especially bulldogs and pit pulls — they’ll just lay in it — it just feels so good to them.” Look for more breakfast food trucks this year (doughnuts!), plus Latin and Asian offerings, and a new PFP taco cart from festival presenters Neue Creative, Kriser's Natural Pet Store and Modular Dog. There’s a dog costume contest with a cash prize, cool vendors, rescue groups with adoptable pups, music and a fun coloring book. So bring your leashed and decorated pet, but don’t be surprised if you fall in love and go home with two (or more) dogs. This looks like a great way to spend Saturday morning in Houston.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Market Square Park, 301 Milam. For information, call 832?868?6636 or visit puppiesforbreakfast.com. Free ($5 donation requested).
The sun is out, and Moody Gardens is revving up for an adventurous summer as its popular (and oh-so-private) Palm Beach opens for the season, billed as “Galveston's only white sand beach.” Mom and Dad could probably use a little R&R too, which makes this the perfect hot spot for chill-laxing. Don't miss the 650-foot lazy river (it's splash or be splashed), the thrilling enclosed Tower Slides (you go first) and an enormous 6,100-square-foot zero entry wave pool. “This is great because we’re a one-stop shop. Parents can keep the kids busy, but they can also head over to the shop or bar and keep themselves entertained,” says Mariauna Hernandez, public relations coordinator for Moody Gardens. Entertainment is certainly in no short supply: Guests can sink their toes into the sand – imported from Palm Beach, Florida – while enjoying the regulation-size beach volleyball courts and the wet-and-wacky Splashpad, with automated dump buckets and spray arches. But wait, there's more. Moody Gardens has booked a rolling lineup with more than 20 bands throughout the summer (6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, followed by fireworks over the pyramids and Offatts Bayou), plus movie nights (8 p.m. Thursdays, June 9-August 11). It's also one of our other best bets for fun in the sun this Saturday.
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends through June 3. Continuing daily, June 4 through August 21, and weekends August 27 through September 10. One Hope Boulevard. For information, call 800-582-4673 or visit moodygardens.com. Free to $23.95.
This year’s lineup of presidential nominees offers a little too much low-hanging fruit for comics and late-night; it takes intelligence and creativity to stand out from the pack. Sure, D.L. Hughley has been known to slam Donald Trump’s racist leanings, but we’re still not done spoofing the current administration. Hughley’s second book, Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years, comes out next month; early buzz indicates his faux interviews with Mitt Romney, Rod Blagojevich and Joe Biden are spot-on. Hughley’s also busy with his nationally syndicated radio show; the NBC medical drama Heartbeat (paging Dr. Hackett); and roadtripping on the Comedy Get Down Tour with George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Charlie Murphy. The only complaint we’ve heard about the tour is that the comics have to share stage time, so Hughley’s upcoming five-show stop in Houston sounds like the perfect undiluted dose of all things D.L. Don’t miss his take on “this political circus happening right now, and the world through my eyes as I see it,” says Hughley, whose goal is to make sure people laugh till they hurt themselves. Hearing D.L.'s take on politics sounds like a gas for this Sunday night.
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7:30 p.m. Sunday. Also 8 and 10:30 p.m. May 20; and 7 and 9:30 p.m. May 21. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $30 to $40.
[Update: The organizers of this event have cancelled Saturday evening's lecture. UH representatives were told it was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts, and that refunds will be given at point of sale.]
Perhaps the most-discussed water cooler chatter these days involves the very strange ten-part Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, about Steven Avery, the Manitowoc County man and auto-salvage worker who served 18 years in prison before being exonerated for sexual assault and attempted murder, only to be later convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2007. The series, which was filmed over the course of ten years, took us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, turning binge-watchers into conspiracy theorists and subreddit bloggers. Haters gonna hate, and there are strong opinions on both sides of the fence, ranging from declarations of guilty (he killed the cat) to innocence (low I.Q.; victim of corruption), though most find themselves in the middle, with no shortage of unanswered questions. Now the public is invited to delve further into this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction legal debacle with a national lecture tour by the two attorneys who defended Avery, Making a Murderer’s Dean Strang and Jerry Buting: A Conversation on Justice, our recommendation for this Saturday night.
8 p.m. Saturday. University of Houston, Cullen Performance Hall, 4800 Calhoun. For information, call 832-842-3100 or visit conversationonjustice.com. $49.50.
Sam Byrd and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.