Can't wait until next fall to get your annual Houston Fringe Festival fix? You don't have to. Starting Friday, festival organizers have something to tide you over - The Best of Fringe.
Some of the most-appreciated events of last year's festival are being restaged. There's Alexandria Gurley in Passport to Womanhood, a one-woman show fusing poetry and dramatic monologues, and China Cat Dance's Aquaria, an "underwater" journey in dance to a mysterious realm where you encounter mermaids, urchins, fish and other denizens of the deep. Cirque La Vie, an innovative circus troupe, presents Daring to Be Different, with high-level acrobatics and movement (see right).
Other events include Nicolay Dance Works, where Dana E. Nicolay creates dances that speak clearly and truly of the human experience, and This Infinite Closet, which performs improv -- get ready for this -- in complete darkness. After the performances, there'll be live music on the patio.
Another of our choices for Friday is Standing Room Only Productions revival of the rock musical Feeling Alright. Built around popular songs of the 1960s, the show follows a group of former bandmates and friends who are reunited for the first time in a decade. The six characters fall into one of two categories, those who left and those who stayed.
Big-city banker Matt (played by Marco Camacho) is among those who left. Greg (J.D. Rose in a reprise of his role from SRO's 2013 production) also left. He went to Vietnam, came back and is now the school's maintenance man. Among those who stayed is Johnny (Jeff Taylor, also reprising his role from the 2013 production). Johnny was a little bit too fun-loving in college and basically majored in partying. He's more mellow now, but still ready to have a good time.
There's plenty of fun and rocking music in Feeling Alright, but playwright Michael Weems (recently profiled in our 100 Creatives series) tells us it's a bittersweet story. "We find the previous bandmates and friends reunited after having been mostly estranged for ten years," he tells us. "Their separation was equal parts dreaming too big and running a bit too far to find a new world. Their reunion brings to light [both the good times and] the 'not so good times'...the unresolved relationships, underlying secrets and those things that were never said. In the end, while there isn't a picture perfect bow to their story, there is closure and understanding."
Expect to hear "Respect," "Proud Mary," "Get Back," "Honky Tonk Women" and more.
Feeling Alright is at 8 p.m. May 16, 17, 22 and 23, 2 p.m. May 18. Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 713‑300‑2358 or visit sro-productions.com. $27.50.
On Friday and Saturday, you can catch the Hitchcock Silents and watch young filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock transform himself from a newbie into the peerless movie master we all know and love. The series includes four rare silent movies from the late 1920s.
Only one could credibly be labeled "Hitchcockian"; that's the classic Blackmail (1929) (see right), partially reshot and dubbed when sound technique came to England. German actress Anny Ondra mouthed her dialogue while English actress Joan Barry stood out of camera shot and said the lines. It's an odd disconnect, to say the least, but it gives the movie a unique strangeness, even with its surreal scene in which Ondra, previously having stabbed a painter who made a pass at her (Cyril Ritchard, more memorable years later as Mary Martin's fey Captain Hook), only hears the word "knife" during a harmless kitchen scene. The film, and its impressive chase sequence through the British Museum, was a sensation, and Hitchcock became overnight the most famous director in England.
The boxing love triangle The Ring (1927), Hitchcock's only original screenplay written by him; the social comedy Champagne -- which Hitchcock always described as "dreadful"; and the pastoral, melancholy romance The Manxman (1929), with its stunning cinematography by John Cox, show Sir Alfred in fine form, learning as he goes, developing that unique visual style that has never been topped, and honing his later themes of the wrong man thought guilty, moral ambiguity and the movie spectator as not so innocent voyeur.
See The Ring, 7 p.m. Friday; The Manxman, 1 p.m. Saturday; Blackmail, 6 p.m. Saturday and Champagne, 8 p.m. Saturday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $15.
Katharine Sherman's Cassandra, based on the ancient Greek myth, opens Mildred's Umbrella's The Women's Project series of female-centric shows and is one of our choices for Saturday. In the myth, the god Apollo gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy. When she refused his sexual advances, he turned that gift into a curse (no one would ever believe her). Set before the fall of Troy, this Cassandra is a reworking of that story.
Shelby Bray plays the title character, and Cassandra director Melissa Flower says she captures the essence of the role. Bray, Flower tells us, "does an incredible job at getting to the sensation and poetry of the words." Lisa Villegas plays Helen of Troy. Mildred's Umbrella Artistic Director Jennifer Decker says, "[She's] thought to be the most beautiful woman in the world and is pretty much a captive because of her beauty." According to Decker, the interaction between Cassandra and Helen, both doomed women, makes for some of the show's most effective moments.
Cassandra is staged at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Through May 24. Company Onstage courtyard, 536 Westbury Square. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay-what-you-can.
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On Sunday, pianist Viktor Valkov joins the Apollo Chamber Players for Of Gypsies and Rhapsodies. First prize winner of the Liszt-Garrison International Competition in 2011, Valkov has performed the music of Liszt around the world.
Apollo Chamber Players founder and Artistic Director Matthew Detrick tells us Valkov is the perfect collaborator for the group. Not only does he have strong ties to Rice University's Shepherd School of Music as do Detrick and his cohorts, he's also dedicated to exploring the varying inspirations for composers, the guiding principle of Apollo. The program, which closes out the season for the chamber music quartet, includes Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody Piano Trio, No. 12; Haydn's Piano Trio No. 39 in G Major; and Bartók's String Quartet No. 2. The Apollo Chamber Players, named a 2014 MasterMind by the Houston Press, includes Detrick and Anabel Ramirez on violin, Matthew Dudzik on cello and Whitney Bullock on viola.
The music starts at 6 p.m. Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 832-341-2340 or visit apollochamberplayers.org. $25.
Jim J. Tommaney and D.L. Groover contributed to this post.