If he's good at anything, it's talking. Spalding Gray's monologues and one-man shows have entertained for more than two decades now. At most performances, the set is the same, with a table, a chair, a notebook and a glass of water. But what he says is always unique and fresh. Gray tells stories about everything from the making of a film to the stress of house-hunting, captivating audiences with his meditations on the universal human experience.
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But he doesn't always want to do all the talking. The self-described poetic journalist returns to Houston with Interviewing the Audience, an interactive performance that has dotted his career during the past 20 years. Placing microphones around the theater, Gray gets audience members to tell their stories. The interviews show how entertaining ordinary lives can be, and the event becomes what The Washington Post once called "public psychotherapy." Gray has been known to approach viewers ahead of time to choose his victims, so be warned. 8 p.m Friday, March 21. Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 500 Texas Avenue. For information and tickets, call 713-227-4SPA or visit www.spahouston.org. $29 to $45. - Eric A.T. Dieckman
Growing up is rough -- but it's doubly rough when you're gay and living in rural North Carolina. In Bienvenue Theatre's production of Dreamboy, Nathan, the new kid in town, makes friends with the older, popular Roy. But pretty soon the boys realize they've got the hots for each other. And that's when their families, friends and church start raisin' hell. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 26, with an extra performance at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 30. 3722 Washington Avenue. For information, call 713-426-2626. $20 to $30. - Cathy Matusow
Off the Air
In a former life, Kathleen Madigan was a journalist. But she ditched that career in 1988, after stumbling into amateur night at a comedy club in St. Louis. Since then, the self-described "closet political junkie" has made appearances on nightly talk shows and cable specials, using her journalistic savvy to talk about subjects more provocative than boring old relationship issues. That would have changed if Madigan's 2002 TV pilot The Couch (in which comedians give normal folks advice on relationships) had been picked up by Comedy Central. Alas, now it's part of a failed-pilot showcase in Los Angeles. But then, you didn't want to hear boring old relationship jokes anyway. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, through Saturday, March 22, with additional 10:30 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, 713-524-2333. $12.50 to $16.50, with a two-drink minimum. - Troy Schulz
A legend visits Houston
Cuban jazz pianist Jesus "Chucho" Valdés comes from a musical family. His father was pianist Bebe Valdés, a fixture at the Tropicana in Havana during the '50s. The younger Valdés, who started playing piano at three and was considered a prodigy, stayed behind when his father left Cuba in 1961. The son gained a following in Cuba, but the U.S. embargo made it hard for him to otherwise make a name for himself. In 1978, during a brief improvement of U.S.-Cuba relations under President Carter, Valdés played at the Newport Folk Festival with the group Irakere. A live recording of the show garnered Valdés his first Grammy (he earned the next one 19 years later). Now the legendary Valdés is coming to Houston for Miller Outdoor Theatre's first concert of the season. Opening for Valdés is the repertoire ensemble Caliente. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22. 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park. For information, call 713-284-8350. Free. - Cathy Matusow