The theme for this weekend in Houston is "out of this world," with the nebula-inspired film The Cosmos, stars from television and film (Doctor Who, Star Trek) at Space City Comic Con, and stellar tributes to Prince and Maurice White when the Motown & More Revue comes to Miller Outdoor Theatre. Austin's Rude Mechs plays out the very strange (and sometimes perilous) ritual exercises of a '60s-era acting guru, while the Houston Ballet does a nice parody on the excesses of contemporary dance.
This weekend’s nerdfest is bordering dangerously on cool, with a Sons of Anarchy reunion that includes Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst and many more of our favorite biker outlaws, plus a strong presence for fans of Doctor Who and Star Trek. Brent Spiner (Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation), who was born and raised here, is making his first local comic convention appearance. Almost 50 years after the original series launched in 1966, the sci-fi franchise has branched out to include several television series, movies, video games and now even a web series: Star Trek Continues. George Comits, Space City Comic Con's promoter, has done a pretty good job securing most of the cast from that web series. “I have Michele Specht, I have Gigi Edgley,” says Comits. “I have Chris Doohan, the son of the famous Jimmy Doohan; he actually plays the character of Scotty.” For fans of the original television show, there’s also a special Sunday-only visit by William Shatner. The man who put James T. Kirk on the map says he never gets tired of making appearances and that there really is no such thing as being too Trekkie. “[They] can’t get too extreme for me. It’s awesome to have people doing, coming to see you and making sounds of appreciation,” says Shatner. “It’s something. I’ve been doing it a long time; I almost take it for granted, and then I’m just amazed.” Space City Comic Con includes all our favorite things, so it's one of our picks for Friday, with comics, sci-fi, fantasy, gaming, literature, art, costume contests, fan groups, LARP and a dealer room; additional fees apply for autographs and photo opportunities.
Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. NRG Center, 1 NRG Park, 832-667-1400, spacecitycomiccon.com. $20 to $799.
The Houston Symphony has been known to deliver concerts that are out of this world. In the case of The Cosmos — An HD Odyssey, the symphony adopted a literal interpretation of that phrase to create an experience that combines Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World, with images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, completing a series that began with The Planets and The Earth. “The Cosmos is perhaps the most visually compelling in our trilogy — and that’s because it lends itself to a great deal of diversity — the cosmos is a big place,” says Duncan Copp, the filmmaker, scientist (he holds a master’s degree in satellite remote sensing and a doctorate in astronomy) and executive producer of the 45-minute film that accompanies the live orchestra. “In very broad terms, my conceit was to take a cosmic journey from here on Earth outwards to the edge of the observable universe.” The film utilizes high-definition images of the sun, stars and nearby nebula, which all combine for stunning effect, and it's our other pick for a cosmic Friday night. Also on the program is Concerto for Orchestra, the exciting, virtuosic 20th-century showpiece by Witold Lutosawski.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35 to $139.
As an actor, exactly how far would you go for a part? Would you ignore Stanislavski and turn that small role into so much more, infusing it with sex, death and violence, even if it placed you in mortal danger? Lott Entertainment imports Austin-weird theater troupe Rude Mechs to present The Method Gun, an exploration of the controversial techniques of an acting guru from the Age of Aquarius. “Stella Burden wanted to fuse western acting techniques like ‘The Method’ with more physically based and often dangerous ritual exercises that she found and encountered in her travels around the world,” says Shawn Sides, who acts in and also directs this original production, which had a limited Off-Broadway run in 2011. It isn’t necessarily experimental theater, but it does offer some interesting moments as the disciples — who’ve been toiling for nine years to mount A Streetcar Named Desire — experience madness, despair and joy for their craft. “[There is] full frontal nudity for a man. When it happens, it’s really not sexually charged at all. It’s funny,” says Sides, who hesitates to label this play a comedy. “I think that [The Method Gun] has a lot of funny moments, but also has a lot of touching and sad moments, too, if we’re doing it right.” We think a little bit of Austin weird for Saturday night is just what the doctor ordered.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit lottentertainmentpresents.com. $36 to $45.
The quick-stepping, high-energy soul-fest Dancin’ in the Street...Motown & More Review returns for its 21st year, with tie dye and polyester threads, dance grooves, and the legendary sounds of Motown. The "Thrill on the Hill" is one of our summertime favorites, and looks pretty good for Saturday night. Look for special tributes this year to The Purple One and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, and live performances by 20 singers, ten dancers and a 23-piece orchestra. “We’re a family company, and we all wear a bunch of different hats to get the show on every year,” says Dalilah Whitmore, co-producer, artistic director and costume designer for producer Bacement Foundation for the Arts. She, along with her mother and other family members, keeps it moving, pulling off 30 acts in the two-and-a-half-hour production. “It’s a pretty fast-paced show,” says Whitmore. “Behind the scenes, in most cases there are people ripping and running, getting out of their costumes and into their next costume to get onstage.” So get down and get groovy, baby, because the thrill on the hill is back this Memorial Day weekend.
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8:15 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.
A ballet tribute to “the lost generation” who died in World War I, another ballet described as a romantic masterpiece and a third piece that parodies the excesses of contemporary dance — that’s the Houston Ballet’s Spring Mixed Repertory Program this year. The Ballet's twice-a-year mixed repertory offerings are hugely popular, and the lineup for this one looks especially interesting for Sunday afternoon: Gloria, by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, was inspired by Vera Brittain’s memoir Testament of Youth. Serenade, choreographed by George Balanchine with music by Tchaikovsky, is a study in how dancing onstage differs from rehearsal. And Alexander Ekman’s Cacti takes a poke at the affectations of modern dance; in Boston the dancers worked in cacti props for dramatic effect.
2 p.m. Sunday. Also 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28 and June 3-4; and 2 p.m. June 5. Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $20 to $168.
Sam Byrd, Margaret Downing and Josef Molnar contributed to this post.