Top Five Things to Do This Weekend

Still haven't planned out your weekend? We've got a few suggestions for you, starting with Catastrophic Theatre's Fleaven. It was American Falls that snagged actor/playwright Miki Johnson the Best Playwright nod at the Houston Press's Houston Theater Awards last August. Falls is Johnson's first-ever produced work, but Fleaven, produced here by Catastrophic Theatre, is actually her first playwriting effort. The show's title is a mash-up of two characters' names: Flame, a disco star wannabe, and Heaven, an international disco star who left Flame behind on the road to fame. The setting is a mall -- a disco mall. The dialogue is in rap-influenced rhyme...spoken by people on roller skates...who also sing sometimes. "You definitely can't talk about it seriously for long, because it gets ridiculous," Johnson tells us, laughing. "But really, it's about a friendship that's very broken."

Johnson says writing is a bit of a change from acting for her. "When I'm acting, I'm that one character. When I'm writing, I'm all of them. In Fleaven, I'm the villain more than anything, but I'm also the good guy. All of the characters are based on my point of view," she says before quickly adding, "but they aren't based on me." (Just in case we had any doubts about her secret life as a roller-skating, rap-rhyming disco queen.)

8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Through November 17. Frenetic Theatre, 5102 Navigation. For information, visit the company's website or call 713‑522‑2723. All performances are pay-what-you-can.

Italian mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona checks in at about five-foot-ten, and in Houston Grand Opera's second offering of the season -- The Italian Girl in Algiers -- she is taller than Lawrence Brownlee, who plays her lover, Lindoro. Rather than being a drawback, this plays to her advantage as she makes her HGO debut in the lead role of Isabella, who journeys after her Lindoro, an Italian slave to Mustafa, and then is shipwrecked and ends up in Algiers. "She is a commander. She manipulates Mustafa," Barcellona says, laughing. Mustafa (played by Patrick Carfizzi, last seen as Dr. Bartolo in Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville) has decided to shake up his love life and that to do so, he needs an Italian woman, not the same old, same old from his wife and harem. Isabella arrives on cue, and Mustafa is smitten.

Check out our review of The Italian Girl in Algiers by D. L. Groover.

The Italian Girl in Algiers is sung in Italian with English subtitles. 7:30 p.m. November 3, 7 and 9; 2 p.m. November 11. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, visit the HGO website or call 713‑546‑0200. $15 to $327.

The Polish Film Festival has a stellar lineup. On Saturday, there's Dzień Kobiet (Women's Day) by Maria Sadowska. The drama centers on a single mother (Katarzyna Kwiatkowska) raising a teenage daughter. When she's offered a promotion at the supermarket where she works, she finds out the chance for advancement comes at a high cost. Sadowska and Kwiatkowska will both be in attendance at that Saturday night screening.

On Sunday, the political thriller 80 milionów (80 Milion), by director Waldemar Krzystek, starts the night. It follows a group of Solidarity activists in 1981 as they plan to steal $80 million from a bank before the government imposes martial law and the account is seized. In Lek wysokoáci (Fear of Falling), Bartosz Konpka's family drama, a man attempts to reconcile with his elderly father once the older man is unexpectedly admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Other films in the festival include Mitia Okorn's romantic comedy Listy do M (Letters to Santa) and Jan Komasa's dark thriller Sala samobójców (Suicide Room) -- can you guess the plot?

All of the films have English subtitles. Various screening times. October 31 through November 4. AMC 30 Studio, 2949 Dunvale. For information, visit the festival's website. $8 to $10.

El Gran Malo is hosting a big, bad Dia de los Muertos party on Saturday, November 3 -- all day long. In addition to a giant Dia de los Muertos shrine on the patio, the gastrocantina will have crafts to make your own veladoras (Mexican saint candles), papel picado and more.

In the early evening, mariachis will hit the patio and so will a roasted pig and a huge cauldron of Mexican hot chocolate (to which you can add a shot of El Gran Malo's famous infused tequilas, such as cinnamon vanilla or triple chili). And at 6 p.m., the bar will be tapping a cask of Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 12.

Don't want to drive? El Gran Malo is offering 10 percent off your tab if you catch The Wave. Call 713-863-WAVE (9283) to hitch a ride. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. 2307 Ella. For information, visit the restaurant's website or call 832-767-3405.

In Body Awareness, a lesbian couple, raising a son who may or may not have Asperger's syndrome, see their home life upended with the arrival of a guest photographer during a special college seminar week. Playwright Annie Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens) lays out her one-act comedy in 90 minutes. Actress Kim Tobin, co-founder with her husband Philip Lehl (who's directing this production) of Houston's Stark Naked Theatre Company, plays a lead role in Body Awareness. She says there are already some problems in the family that are only exacerbated when Frank the photographer arrives with his pictures. "This play challenges that part of us that feels the need to always have clear, concrete solutions to all our problems," Tobin says. "It asks us sometimes to accept things the way things are and that logic isn't always right."

Of special note: Stark Naked is opening its doors an hour before curtain so that theater-goers can look at a special collection of artwork Tobin has curated in connection with this play. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and November 5; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through November 10. Spring Street Studios, Studio 101, 1824 Spring St., For information, visit the company's website or call 832-866-6514. $10 to $20.

Katharine Shilcutt and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.

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