Politics and theater can make boring bedfellows. The result is usually a bunch of soapboxing badly disguised as art. Of course, if you're Brian Jucha and you want to write about the horrors of 9/11, the whole world -- including any usual standards about what happens when art and politics mix -- gets turned upside down. Certainly that was the case earlier this year when Jucha and the brave hearts at Infernal Bridegroom Productions put on the most original and provocative production of the entire theatrical season. Jucha's strange synthesis of pop music, modern dance moves and dialogue taken from actual tapes of the air-traffic controllers turned into an astonishing collage of images and sound that illuminated much about the culture in which we live. (Everything from "Free Winona" T-shirts to skate punks to phone sex got a moment on stage.) The utterly inspired night of showmanship was gorgeous to watch, painful to think about and should not have been missed by anyone who loves theater.
When the bubble burst in 1929, so many stockbrokers took a dive themselves that it brought the euphemism defenestration (the act of throwing a person or thing out of a window) back into the lexicon. More recently, post office employees showed the need for anger management in the workplace. But despite being left with worthless stock options at best, or a pink slip at worst, Enron employees expressed their justifiable rage through humor. Amassing corporate "deal toys" handed out in the company's heyday, former and remaining employees put together an impromptu art exhibit at Drew Crispin's coffee bar in the now mostly empty Three Allen Center. Among the works on display was a Lucite dome containing shredded money handed out in 1995 in honor of closing a financial deal (it's called "Not a Shred of Evidence"), and a watercolor print of an American flag and eagle presented as a gift to Enron's political action committee members in 1999 (called "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?"). Building management turned a blind eye to the exhibit even though it might not have followed the letter of the contract, and Enron's remaining top brass wisely kept silent. This is one case where blurring the line was justified.

When the bubble burst in 1929, so many stockbrokers took a dive themselves that it brought the euphemism defenestration (the act of throwing a person or thing out of a window) back into the lexicon. More recently, post office employees showed the need for anger management in the workplace. But despite being left with worthless stock options at best, or a pink slip at worst, Enron employees expressed their justifiable rage through humor. Amassing corporate "deal toys" handed out in the company's heyday, former and remaining employees put together an impromptu art exhibit at Drew Crispin's coffee bar in the now mostly empty Three Allen Center. Among the works on display was a Lucite dome containing shredded money handed out in 1995 in honor of closing a financial deal (it's called "Not a Shred of Evidence"), and a watercolor print of an American flag and eagle presented as a gift to Enron's political action committee members in 1999 (called "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?"). Building management turned a blind eye to the exhibit even though it might not have followed the letter of the contract, and Enron's remaining top brass wisely kept silent. This is one case where blurring the line was justified.

When we feel like takin' in an eyeful of cowboys teachin' livestock a lesson, when we got a hankerin' fer the romance of lively country dancin' in the open air, the fiesta rodeo jamboree comes through. Most Saturday nights, the big metal shed out on 288 roils with arena events, play-day festivities (many of which may involve small animals and smaller children, just a-tumblin' in the dust) and Tejano music. Anyone with a little folding money and boots to scoot is welcome, and everyone is encouraged to dance. Sure, it's hot, but vendor snacks and chilled libations help keep your energy up. Just don't call 'em libations in front of the goat-ropers. It's not the cowboy way.
When we feel like takin' in an eyeful of cowboys teachin' livestock a lesson, when we got a hankerin' fer the romance of lively country dancin' in the open air, the fiesta rodeo jamboree comes through. Most Saturday nights, the big metal shed out on 288 roils with arena events, play-day festivities (many of which may involve small animals and smaller children, just a-tumblin' in the dust) and Tejano music. Anyone with a little folding money and boots to scoot is welcome, and everyone is encouraged to dance. Sure, it's hot, but vendor snacks and chilled libations help keep your energy up. Just don't call 'em libations in front of the goat-ropers. It's not the cowboy way.
Out of the mysterious variables of love came David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning Proof, a play about familial love, genius and the terrible effects of madness on family. And for a brief two weeks Proof came to Houston, where it glowed at the Wortham Theater with a thousand megawatts of intellectual power. Rarely does a nonmusical drama garner so much success that it earns a national tour, but Proof provided that sizzling combination of wit, whodunit suspense and tender heart that continues to make live theater feel vital.

Out of the mysterious variables of love came David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning Proof, a play about familial love, genius and the terrible effects of madness on family. And for a brief two weeks Proof came to Houston, where it glowed at the Wortham Theater with a thousand megawatts of intellectual power. Rarely does a nonmusical drama garner so much success that it earns a national tour, but Proof provided that sizzling combination of wit, whodunit suspense and tender heart that continues to make live theater feel vital.

The Alley Theatre's November production of Yasmina Reza's Art sparkled with smart ideas about art, modern lifestyles and our passion for everything "fashionable." Reza's flawless script gleefully deconstructs all the folly in our pathetically solipsistic world, including homeopathic medicine, psychotherapy and ridiculously high-priced paintings -- the one in the Alley's production was nothing more than a white canvas on which were drawn three white lines. The Alley's double cast pulled off Reza's insipid world of black clothes and hushed manners with hysterical understatement as they quietly moaned and groaned their way through a number of contemporary anxieties, including the difficulties of family and money, especially when the two are twisted up together. Of course, everything came down to hysterical fisticuffs in the end, when the well-heeled characters couldn't hold in their troubles anymore. Funny as all this was, the best part came later, after the show was over and the actors had gone home. Just a short drive through Houston's streets, full of slick cars and modern town houses, makes everything Reza says about the sad state of our affairs ring dreadfully true.
The Alley Theatre's November production of Yasmina Reza's Art sparkled with smart ideas about art, modern lifestyles and our passion for everything "fashionable." Reza's flawless script gleefully deconstructs all the folly in our pathetically solipsistic world, including homeopathic medicine, psychotherapy and ridiculously high-priced paintings -- the one in the Alley's production was nothing more than a white canvas on which were drawn three white lines. The Alley's double cast pulled off Reza's insipid world of black clothes and hushed manners with hysterical understatement as they quietly moaned and groaned their way through a number of contemporary anxieties, including the difficulties of family and money, especially when the two are twisted up together. Of course, everything came down to hysterical fisticuffs in the end, when the well-heeled characters couldn't hold in their troubles anymore. Funny as all this was, the best part came later, after the show was over and the actors had gone home. Just a short drive through Houston's streets, full of slick cars and modern town houses, makes everything Reza says about the sad state of our affairs ring dreadfully true.
When the artist Weihong attended openings for her gallery shows, she noticed that patrons seemed more interested in the philosophy behind her work than the actual art. So she put together an interactive show where people could sit down and discuss Chinese philosophy with her over tea. The gallery was divided into white and black areas, and guests were asked to show up dressed in neutrals. They sat at a black-and-white table, and drank from black-and-white cups, and, well, talked with Weihong about the yin and the yang. Guests then had their photos taken and posted on the Internet (one participant appears in black underwear, and the mug of the ubiquitous Carolyn Farb can also be found on the Web site), and the tea leaves were dried out and added to a glass display case for the end of the show. In the end, 143 people took her up on the offer to have a one-on-one with the artist. No doubt all of them learned, as Weihong says, that tea tastes better with company.

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