The 2000-2001 Houston theater season (which ended up being as exciting as a glass of lukewarm water) started out with a great gush of roaring energy. Jane Martin's explosively funny Anton in Show Business reigned supreme from Stages Repertory Theatre over the entire season. The screamingly funny show focused on the difficulties of modern-day theater life and was perhaps more prescient of the coming theatrical year than was intended when it argued that "the American theater is in a shitload of trouble." Of course Martin, who is generally believed to be Jon Jory, ex-producing director of Actors Theater of Louisville, knows all about the state of American theater. Every sort of theatrical poseur shows up in this script, including pompous foreign directors, foolish narcissistic actors all dressed in black, and rich swaggering funders who know diddly-squat about art. Each and every character casts a beacon of giddy light over the season to come, and together they created the sort of fiery magic that no other production could match.
Theater New West's production of Key West provided one of the cheapest getaway romps of the summer. All about love and sex and naked men flouncing their privates about the stage, this silly show rippled with breezy laughs and utterly gorgeous flesh. Jack George as the young, lovely and Swedish Per spent long, languid minutes during the first act lounging on a deck chair and showing off his buck-naked, bronzed backside. When he stood up, the proper Montrose audience did all they could to keep from catcalling the stage. Erik Soliz, as a handsome, roller-skating, half-naked maid named Pinky, sped hilariously through the performance at the most inopportune moments, showing off all that peeked out from beneath his ruffled apron, for that was all he wore. Together these two delicious men provided the most eye-pleasing laughs of the year.
Theater New West's production of Key West provided one of the cheapest getaway romps of the summer. All about love and sex and naked men flouncing their privates about the stage, this silly show rippled with breezy laughs and utterly gorgeous flesh. Jack George as the young, lovely and Swedish Per spent long, languid minutes during the first act lounging on a deck chair and showing off his buck-naked, bronzed backside. When he stood up, the proper Montrose audience did all they could to keep from catcalling the stage. Erik Soliz, as a handsome, roller-skating, half-naked maid named Pinky, sped hilariously through the performance at the most inopportune moments, showing off all that peeked out from beneath his ruffled apron, for that was all he wore. Together these two delicious men provided the most eye-pleasing laughs of the year.
The entire estrogen-laden cast of Stages' production of Anton in Show Business packed such a cohesive punch of acting chemistry that the award goes to the entire group. There was Singerman, who had the unnerving job of acting from a seat in the audience. Bonasso's naive Texas character was all round-eyed amazement at theater life. Quackenbush, the black-on-black-wearing off-off-Broadway theater queen, got down to the dirty side of theatrical trenches. Calene-Black was a platinum-blond TV star who made you cry right before she cut you with all her starlet vanity. James strutted roosterlike as the director of "the Black Rage Ensemble." Cooper did duty as a scary lesbian producer and a male western singer, both completely different and completely believable. And finally Byrd's European male director, who had so much passion that he grabbed his crotch and wailed, "I fuck you with my art and then you cry out," brought the whole show together. Put all together, this team of women got to the deepest diamond of truth hidden in writer Jane Martin's scathingly loving screed about theater today: It's all about community, art and having a great big heart.

The entire estrogen-laden cast of Stages' production of Anton in Show Business packed such a cohesive punch of acting chemistry that the award goes to the entire group. There was Singerman, who had the unnerving job of acting from a seat in the audience. Bonasso's naive Texas character was all round-eyed amazement at theater life. Quackenbush, the black-on-black-wearing off-off-Broadway theater queen, got down to the dirty side of theatrical trenches. Calene-Black was a platinum-blond TV star who made you cry right before she cut you with all her starlet vanity. James strutted roosterlike as the director of "the Black Rage Ensemble." Cooper did duty as a scary lesbian producer and a male western singer, both completely different and completely believable. And finally Byrd's European male director, who had so much passion that he grabbed his crotch and wailed, "I fuck you with my art and then you cry out," brought the whole show together. Put all together, this team of women got to the deepest diamond of truth hidden in writer Jane Martin's scathingly loving screed about theater today: It's all about community, art and having a great big heart.

They don't call it the Shady Tavern for nothing. The "tavern" part is really more of an icehouse, but the "shady" part -- an expansive side yard -- is blessedly covered with plenty of tall sheltering trees. And nestled among the pines in this low-rent bar west of the Heights is a small but serviceable stage where Bert Wills might be crying in his beer to a bunch of Harley-riding bikers. Or someone else might be singing to a more genteel crowd as kids play on the grass and run free. Outdoor concerts in a Houston summer are usually pretty dicey affairs unless you're in the a/c bubble of the Woodlands Pavilion, but the Shady Tavern offers a nice bit of music under the trees, served up without any frills but with a fine sense of place.
Shady Tavern Ice House
They don't call it the Shady Tavern for nothing. The "tavern" part is really more of an icehouse, but the "shady" part -- an expansive side yard -- is blessedly covered with plenty of tall sheltering trees. And nestled among the pines in this low-rent bar west of the Heights is a small but serviceable stage where Bert Wills might be crying in his beer to a bunch of Harley-riding bikers. Or someone else might be singing to a more genteel crowd as kids play on the grass and run free. Outdoor concerts in a Houston summer are usually pretty dicey affairs unless you're in the a/c bubble of the Woodlands Pavilion, but the Shady Tavern offers a nice bit of music under the trees, served up without any frills but with a fine sense of place.
As usual, John Tyson stole the show when he showed up on the Alley Theatre's stage during Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream with big blown-up balloon boobs tucked in his shirt. He was Flute, who plays Thisby in Shakespeare's play inside the play. And it makes delicious sense that Tyson, Houston's consummate clown (who can also weep the saddest tears), should have frolicked his way into our hearts once more in such a crazy getup. The audience roared with laughter when he walked across the stage and giggled in his girly squeak. Then they literally rocked in their seats, holding their bellies as they howled with laughter when one boob burst and Tyson deadpanned straight out, "you know what's coming next," before he reached up and popped the other airy orb. No, it wasn't serious, but it was brilliant; there is no performance from the entire season more memorable or more deserving than Tyson's hysterical clown.
As usual, John Tyson stole the show when he showed up on the Alley Theatre's stage during Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream with big blown-up balloon boobs tucked in his shirt. He was Flute, who plays Thisby in Shakespeare's play inside the play. And it makes delicious sense that Tyson, Houston's consummate clown (who can also weep the saddest tears), should have frolicked his way into our hearts once more in such a crazy getup. The audience roared with laughter when he walked across the stage and giggled in his girly squeak. Then they literally rocked in their seats, holding their bellies as they howled with laughter when one boob burst and Tyson deadpanned straight out, "you know what's coming next," before he reached up and popped the other airy orb. No, it wasn't serious, but it was brilliant; there is no performance from the entire season more memorable or more deserving than Tyson's hysterical clown.
The explosion of downtown drinking establishments provides crowds with more choices than ever for the forays into the central city: disco, rock, retro, high-dollar, lowbrow, jazz, freak/geek/sleek and so on. And that makes the other option -- none of the above -- that much more valuable for visitors and regulars alike. Market Square Bar & Grill serves as a needed rest stop of sorts for any ultimate destination downtown. The place is centrally located. It a well-stocked bar and pours a good drink at a reasonable price. And there's no one type of crowd -- everybody can shed the social airs and just feel comfortable awhile, before the rest of the barhopping or mate-hunting resumes for the evening. Best of all, this bar offers quality grill fare -- top-notch burgers, tasty salads and more -- to stabilize stomachs for the drinking sessions ahead. And the back patio would make New Orleans proud as a fine retreat from the rigors of downtown hustling.

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