Top Five Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: The Liberated Accident, "Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona" and More

Choreographer Amanda K. Miller-Fasshauer has spent the past three decades living and working abroad, so it was a coup for the U.S.-based CORE Performance Company to commission a new work from her to be set on American dancers. Miller-Fasshauer tells us that the work, The Liberated Accident, An Evening in Three Chapters which is being performed Friday and Saturday, is nonlinear. "Nothing I do is linear. It's all abstract, creating worlds, and at the end one is left with an impression." Before she began choreographing the piece, Miller-Fasshauer worked with the CORE dancers for several days in a workshop setting. "I get to know what their desires are and what they want to learn about themselves. The work is really made for the people that I'm working with, about helping them to learn about their own artistry."

Miller-Fasshauer says she got the title Liberated Accident from a book by Henri Michaux, a Belgian-born writer, poet and painter who died in 1984. "It's also about the fact that accidents are often liberating because you could never plan what happened. It's about the beauty of fate."

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Barn, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713-862-5530 or visit coredance.org. Free.

Don't worry if you aren't familiar with the epic story Ramayan, the basis for Friday's performance by Ballet Shri Ram. Organizers have you covered: English scene descriptions appear on screens on both sides of the stage during the show. "From scene to scene the music, lighting, dance and colors of the Ballet Shri Ram saturate the senses and immerse the audience in a tale of gods and demons, kings and queens, war and retribution, and of love, duty and honor," Dr. Hari Dayal, executive director of Indo-American Association -- Houston, tells us. "[Ramayan] is a story of good triumphing over evil, which also exemplifies the struggle of each of us as we try to do the right thing to follow the dictates of conscience. As such, Ramayan transcends India and is relevant to all times and all cultures."

8 p.m. 615 Louisiana. For information, call 281-648-0422 or visit iaahouston.com. $22 to $72.

People often have strange reactions when they're standing next to someone's deathbed. In Diana Amsterdam's Carnival 'Round the Central Figure, making its Houston premiere with Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company and one of our picks for Saturday, some of those reactions are funny, some are sad, some are both -- and all of them hit home. Jennifer Decker, the company's artistic director and co-founder, says she came upon Amsterdam's script by chance. It happened that she read it just after going through a similar situation and recognized much of her own experience on the pages. The father of a friend was dying, and as a newcomer and relative outsider, Decker clearly saw the family's denial in the face of obvious indicators that the man was near death. Some hoped for unlikely "good results" from a new medication, others worked on keeping a positive attitude and still others discussed after-hospice care. The man's family and friends did everything but deal with the realities of the situation at hand. Carnival 'Round's main character is Kate, a young woman who visits a friend who's dying and is swept up in the emotional situation.

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Through November 23. Studio 101, Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay-as-you-can to $40.

Comedian and diagnosed schizophrenic Christopher Titus, another one of our picks for Saturday, has a life story that reads like a Tarantino script. For starters, his mother, herself a manic-depressive schizophrenic who had a long history of institutionalization, killed her third husband and later committed suicide. His father was a mean alcoholic who targeted Titus for much of his life. (Titus spread this father's ashes in a casino.) With such good role models, it's no wonder the comic had a disastrous marriage (his wife cheated on him -- twice -- and then cleaned him out financially). Titus took all that hurt and dysfunction and turned it into his own brand of way-over-the-edge observational comedy. To his credit, he never plays the victim, appealing for fans' sympathy. Instead, he recounts his real-life stories, looking to his audience to confirm, "This is messed up, right?" His often enthusiastic stage rants are more genius than they are lunatic. His humor requires a thoughtful audience willing to explore the, yes, funny side of dark, hard themes like racism, pedophilia and mental illness.

Among his milder though equally pointed bits is his take on the use of the word "retard" to describe the differently abled. "If I ever heard someone calling someone a retard," he says, "they would have to deal with me physically. But...every woman in here has a girlfriend who's shown up at her house: 'Oh my God, we got in a fight and he pushed me...I'm never going to see him again!' Two weeks later, not only is she seeing that dude again, she's moved in with him and has agreed to marry him. Retard. Rhianna-tard."

8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p. m. Sunday. 7620 Katy Freeway. For -information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $22 to $35.

Argentine artist Antonio Berni hasn't had an exhibit in an American museum for half a century, but the "Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona" exhibit opening on Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will give Houstonians a rare look at his strange and wonderful art. During the early part of his life, Berni established himself in Argentina as a master painter in the Latin American New Realism style, but that all changed in the 1950s, when he began working in assemblage. At the time, Argentina was plagued by severe social upheaval under the rule of heavy-handed Juan Perón (opposition forces faced torture and widespread inflation led to mass poverty). The disorder inspired Berni to create two fictional characters, Juanito Laguna, a boy from the slums, and Ramona Montiel, a prostitute. Using waste materials, Juanito was made of old cardboard and industrial sheet metal, while Ramona was composed of hand embroidery and plastic nails. The two dominated Berni's assemblage pieces, representing ordinary citizens. His work captures a profound moment in the country's history.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through January 26. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free to $15.

Jef with One F, Karen Branch and Nancy Ford contributed to this post.

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