Main Street Theater returns to favorite playwright Tom Stoppard (its 17th production of one of his works) with The Real Thing, a Tony Award-winning comedy (Best Play in 1984, Best Revival in 2000) set in the late 1970s/early '80s. Directed by Rebecca Greene Udden, The Real Thing is our pick for Friday. The play takes place in five different apartments, a theater rehearsal hall and a train over the space of 2-1/2 to three years as the main characters go in and out of relationships - but manage to hang on to some of the same furniture.
''This is all about people connecting with each other and messing with each other,'' says Shannon Emerick (The Coast of Utopia, Richard III) who plays Annie, an actor. ''She is a free spirit but grounded in love and passion and I don't just mean romantically. She throws herself into whatever she does. Sometimes it's good; sometimes it's not.'' Joe Kirkendall (Henry V, The Coast of Utopia) plays Henry, an accomplished screenwriter.
Stoppard is a Main Street audience favorite both for his wordplay and his ability to ground his characters, to explore their humanity, Emerick says: ''His work epitomizes what we value at Main Street Theater, it's the language and the human connection.''
See The Right Thing at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays.
Through September 29. Extended through October 6. Main Street Theater - Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit the theater's website. $20 to $36.
Multimedia performance artist Josh Urban Davis has some advice for audience members attending Submission, a durational performance art experience being presented on Friday by Continuum: ''Move through the space,'' he says. ''Examine the pieces individually and then take them in collectively.''
Some 20 artists are taking over the Summer Street Artists Studios for Submission, performing simultaneously throughout the building. ''There'll be seats available but we encourage you to interact with the space, to move around. Just follow the yarn.'' A more practical technique than Hansel and Gretel's fabled bread crumbs, yarn will be strung throughout the building leading visitors to each of the performance areas.
Davis insists the presentations are performance art, not theater. ''You're suspending your belief when you go to a theater, you're allowing the actors to tell you a lie in order to tell you the truth. With performance art, there's not a suspension of belief. We're just trying to tell a truth. We're trying to show you a concentrated action, this one bit of reality that tells the truth. For my piece, I wanted to talk about time so I'm making a human clock. I'm basically taking chalk and making tick marks around me in a circle for the entire duration of the show. By the end of the show, these tick marks will cover the entire floor of the warehouse. It will create a physical representation of the time invested in creating the object.''
Submission runs 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday at Summer Street Artists Studios, 2500 Summer Street. For information, visit the Continuum website. Free.
Former Houston Chronicle assistant managing editor for international coverage turned playwright Fernando Dovalina focuses on the aftermath of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to hit the Gulf Coast in Eye of the Storm: Tales from Hurricane Ike, one of our picks for Saturday. Some of the short plays and monologues have been produced individually, but Cone Man Running Productions is putting nine of them together into an evening-length show to mark the fifth anniversary of the storm.
Christine Weems, a member of Cone Man Running, says the show starts off with a conversation among six deadly hurricanes including Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Ike and Tropical Storm Allison. "The storms are talking about the political impact that they each had on the United States. There's also a wonderful piece about a couple and their son. The father has decided that he wants to live as a woman. The son finds out just before the storm while he's trying to get his parents to leave Galveston. There's another monologue by a dog, who tells about his experiences during the storm."
While some of the works are poignant, others are humorous. "The closing play is called A Bag of Ice and it's about this loudmouth, redheaded woman. All she wants to do is buy a frigging bag of ice and she can't find any. She manages to find one, but she's having to fight people for it." Weems says Dovalina was able to depict humorous situations, without resorting to punch lines. "We're not making fun of anyone's tragedy. This woman thinks it's tragic that she can't find a bag of ice, but Fernando was really sensitive to those issues." Eye of the Storm is presented in repertory with A Common Martyr.
8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. September 16, 2 p.m. September 8 and 15. Through September 21. Studio 101, Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 281-773-3642 or visit the event's ticketing website. $15.
It's no surprise that Elizabeth A.M. Keel, an independent, adventurous woman, wrote Deborah (The Mostly True Tale of a Revolutionary Woman), a play about another independent, adventurous woman and one of our picks for Saturday. ''Yes, there are shameless parallels,'' Keel tells us laughing. Keel was in high school when she first found Deborah Sampson, a woman who masqueraded as a man in order to fight during the Civil War. ''I thought, 'Oh, that's cool. I should write a story about it one day,' and then I shoved it into my To Be Written One Day drawer.''
The story stayed there until recently when Keel, the current Artist-in-Residence at 14 Pews, was given the opportunity to mount an original play in the intimate space. ''Deborah is well known for being a soldier in the first part of her life, but in the second part of her life, she was one of the first females in the country to go on tour to give lectures. She would give talks about her adventures in little town halls, a lot like the space [here] at 14 Pews. So [when I was asked] what I wanted to do in the space, Deborah jumped to the front of my mind. She was like, 'Me! Me! It's my turn! Write me!' So I obeyed.''
Deborah runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and September 9, 2 p.m. Sundays. Through September 14. 14 Pews, 800 Aurora. For information, call 281-888-9677 or visit the 14 Pews website. $10 to $13.
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Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, took their relentless irreverence to Broadway and although some may have been praying for them to get their comeuppance, that didn't happen. Instead, The Book of Mormon, co-created by lyricist Robert Lopez (Tony-award winner for Avenue Q) was a hit right from the start when it opened on Broadway in 2011, making back its investors' money in just nine months. Our choice for Sunday, the musical is on the road and coming to the Hobby Theater Center, courtesy of Gexa Energy Broadway.
The somewhat involved plot centers on two Mormon missionaries who've gone to a remote area of Uganda to spread the good word, only to find that their goals and those of the villagers they've come to convert are not at all the same. Grey Henson, a 2012 Carnegie Mellon graduate, who plays the repressed Elder McKinley (with the signature number ''Turn It Off''), says the musical has been so successful because ''it's so different and edgy and people feel so naughty to come see it.'' There's bad language throughout, so don't bring the youngest of kids; in fact, if South Park offends you, this might be one to miss. But realize that it won nine Tony Awards including one for Best Musical and also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. And according to Henson, followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) not only come to see the play, but get the religious jokes that many in the audience miss. The Mormon Church even advertised in the musical's playbill with the legend: ''You've seen the play, now read the book,'' Henson says.
The Book of Mormon runs at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 p.m. Sundays. Through September 15. 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit the Hobby Center website. $45 to $150.
Margaret Downing contributed to this post.