Malignant Redemption: Goethe's Faust legend has for centuries now served as a neat microcosm of humanity's search for experience beyond the physical realm. Its protagonist can be displayed as cocky or well-meaning, the antagonist as evil or fateful, but always, the action forces us to consider the consequences of a pride that would transcend death. Coincidentally timed to the release of Randy Newman's stage production-cum-album Faust, the local theater company Extra Virgin Performance Cooperative has dedicated its entire 1995-'96 season to an exploration of the Faust myth--a brave undertaking in a town not known to support classical theater unless you can drink wine and beer and chat during the performance. Extra Virgin has recently wrapped up a three-hour version of Faust's original play, and now moves on to Malignant Redemption, a loose adaptation by local playwright Dalton James. As much a parable for the age of AIDS as a literary adaptation, Malignant Redemption runs Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through December 16 in the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 941-3664.
Barbra Cook: Cabaret seems hopelessly archaic in the context of contemporary popular music. Then why has Tony Bennett become a hit among folks who were born about the time Bennett entered his third decade of performing? It could be because cabaret and "alternative" music are highly stylized breakouts from their respective pop mainstreams that pay close attention, nevertheless, to the essentials of popular songs. Barbra Cook has spent four decades singing in stage musicals as well as being a solo performer who packs 'em in at the snazziest jazz halls around the world. Cook, like many from her generation and medium, has been trained to perform in a variety of styles--based on whatever the songwriter demands. It's this reverence for the lyric that distinguishes Cook and other cabaret artists, and the major reason why you should attend this evening of classic and contemporary American songs. Tony- and Grammy-winning veteran Cook performs with her long-time arranger-pianist Wally Harper December 7-9 at 8 p.m. at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. All tickets are $40. Call 521-7666.
A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols: In their efforts to gleefully celebrate Christmas, people often bypass the scriptural significance of the event altogether. Still, for many, Christmas offers a challenge to find a personal meaning within one of the Bible's most compelling supernatural stories. Southern Methodist University holds its annual Christmas Worship Service that is, for both families and individuals, an excellent chance to unite the need for fellowship and consideration of a purpose bigger than yourself. A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols was first performed in England 77 years ago, and features the story of man's salvation from Genesis to John the Evangelist. There will be live performances by SMU choirs and instrumentalists as well as talks from various SMU theologians. The event happens at 4 and 8 p.m. in Perkins Chapel on the grounds of Southern Methodist University. It's free. For info call 768-2348.
Dallas Finn: Westerners often think of the Victorian Age as a strictly Anglo affair, an era in which technology was as worshiped as sexuality was policed. But during what is known as the Meiji period of Japan (roughly, 1868-1912), the Japanese were influenced by certain aspects of Victorianism--aspects which were, amazingly, very natural extensions of their highly developed culture that, though mostly isolated from the West, ran on a very similar track. To further enlighten us on turn-of-the-century Japan, the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth hosts a talk by internationally renowned historian Dallas Finn, author of the new book Meiji Revisited: The Sites of Victorian Japan. It was during this 42-year period that Japan transformed itself from feudalism into the sleek and efficient world producer it is today. Finn uses Japanese architecture to illustrate how Japan became increasingly Westernized--just like its culture. The talk begins at 6:30 p.m. in the University of Texas at Arlington's School of Architecture. It's free. For info call 761-1791.
Kwanzaa Celebration: By now you've probably heard a certain African proverb repeated so many times in the media, you could throw up: "It takes an entire village to raise a child." While often invoked for strictly partisan reasons in America, the phrase carries great weight among tribes across the African continent, which fight among themselves with the same bloodthirstiness as the rest of the world yet also seem to respect collective effort and the traditions of family more than most contemporary societies. Project Bridge, a community-based arts education program funded by the Texas Commission on the Arts and sponsored by Junior Players, presents a celebration of Kwanzaa, which is a late-year commemoration of seven basic African principles. The event happens 5-7:30 p.m. at Rhoads Terrace Recreation Center, 5712 Pilgrim in South Dallas. For more information call 526-4076.
Alternative Holiday Bazaar: Paranoid about buying gifts that may have been manufactured by legions of women and children earning a few cents an hour in Third World sweat shops? Take your shopping list to the Alternative Holiday Bazaar, which promises to sell only "socially responsible" gifts during its three days. This year marks the fifth Bazaar, which is co-sponsored by the First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, the Fort Worth Friends Meeting, and the Catholic Diocesean Parish Justice Committees. There are the usual hand-made items, calendars, and T-shirts with "peace" messages as well as crafts and clothing from Pueblo to People, a non-profit organization that imports stuff from Latin American cooperatives. You also can chat at the numerous social service booths, representing everything from UNICEF to Amnesty International to the Sierra Club. The Bazaar will take place on December 8, 7:30 p.m.; December 9, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and December 10, noon-5 p.m. at the First Jefferson Church, 1959 Sandy Lane in East Fort Worth. Call (817) 467-5698 for more information.
Livin' Fat: Politicians like to portray the virtues of working hard for very little money--even while most of the men encouraging this have, on the average, worked very little for a lot of money. "Money Changes Everything" goes the title of a classic R & B song, but is this change inevitable, and is it always for the worst? Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre presents an original comedy by Judi Ann Mason that explores what happens to one relatively happy, extremely hard-working, rather poor family when it stumbles into money it didn't earn but could certainly use. Livin' Fat recounts the tale of a father who holds two jobs; a mother who scrubs floors and praises the Lord on her off hours; and a teenage son whose job as a bank security man accidentally results in a windfall of $15,000. Will things ever be the same again? Performances happen Friday at 8:15 p.m.; Saturday at 3:15 and 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:15 pm at 506 Main in Fort Worth. Tickets are $8-$14. Call (817) 338-4411.
George Wallace: Sometime during the '80s, the art of stand-up comedy became little more than an audition for network sitcoms and cable. Comedy clubs all over America have died pitiful deaths, and those that remain in business have, for the most part, relied on so-called "one-man shows" (read: theme monologues that will attract the attention of network executives) to stay in business. Comedian George Wallace, having survived the cancellation of a TV show based loosely on his act (1993's "Tall Hopes" on ABC) is refusing to kowtow to the trend of live performances based exclusively on one subject. Along with the brilliant Paula Poundstone, Wallace is the best living hope for a renaissance of stand-up comedy. He can riff endlessly on major political skirmishes and silly little everyday dilemmas with equally impressive insight. The failure of his sitcom seems less a sign of his limitations as evidence that the true greats can't be pigeonholed. Wallace performs at Earthquake's Comedy Corner in Arlington December 8-10. For time and admission information call (817) 226-2663.
Maestro Antonio Zepeda: Although Cora Cardona, the inestimable artistic director of Teatro Dallas, has gone on record as comparing the music of Antonio Zepeda with a peyote trip taken for divine inspiration, that shouldn't be construed as meaning you need to ingest hallucinogens in order to enjoy this show. Cardona, as always, is being lyrical in her description, and encouraging patrons who would never dream of ingesting such chemicals to come and hear a master concert that will draw you into another plane of existence--a pre-Christian, pre-Columbian place where Zepeda recalls the sounds of nature as objects of worship. He has performed concerts all over the world with his ancient instruments, most of them replicas but a few originals from a pagan continent. Zepeda uses instruments that were originally designed to be used as part of sacred rituals, and you may feel that intent all over again. He is the last artist of Teatro Dallas' 3rd International Theater Festival and performs December 8 & 9 at 8:15 p.m. at 2204 Commerce. Admission is $12. Call 741-1135.
La Rosa Mistica-La Virgen de Guadalupe: In last week's "Gallery" review, critic Denise Spellman Getson outlined the feud that has simmered between two camps over a woman who is an object of both severe political disagreement and worldwide reverence. For Catholics, the Virgin Mary is a symbol of Christian benevolence and grace even stronger than Christ. At the same time, the political baggage that she's accumulated from one patriarchal culture after another demands close scrutiny, lest we confuse religious doctrine with contemporary convenience. Who, exactly, is Mary, and why does she excite such speculation among even those outside the Catholic faith? The sides have been clearly drawn--Jose Vargas' show at the Bath House Cultural Center offers a traditional view, holding that the lady should not be a symbolic tool of artists who are more interested in shocking than enlightening. And then there's the show mounted by ARTE (Artists Relating Together & Exhibiting), a group that's never been afraid of connecting the spiritual and the sexual. Vargas' show runs through December 23 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther, with a reception December 12 at 6 p.m. ARTE's exhibit opens December 10 at 2 p.m. in the Upper East Pavilion of the Trammell Crow Center, Ross at Harwood.
The Nutcracker: If ever there was a story ripe for contemporary psychosexual interpretation, it's E.T.A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, which has for more than a century now borne the brilliant, eccentric score by Tchaikovsky in almost every international production. A spoiled little girl is given an ornate nutcracker (the beginning of her ambition to dominate men?) by an uncle who coddles her like a "princess." Her bratty little brother breaks the toy out of jealousy, which sends the young woman into a dream state in which her honor is protected from the advances of a Rat King by this symbol of power. Is this "men who hate women and the women who love them" or what? Beyond your own sordid thoughts, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet should prove to be its usual ultra-professional but ultra-predictable self. Performances are December 8 at 8 p.m.; December 9 at 2 & 8 p.m.; and December 10 at 2 p.m. in the Tarrant County Convention Center, 1111 Houston in Fort Worth. Tickets are $8.25 to $41. For more information call (817) 763-0207.
Living on the Edge: Is America's biggest crisis one of morality--as Newt Gingrich and his Republican revolutionaries would have it--with rampant crime, drug use, and poverty the result of lapsed family values? Or has unfettered free-market capitalism--which includes a bottom line that mandates massive lay-offs, or "downsizing," and a continuing slide in wages and benefits for workers--produced a despair among blue-collar Americans that eats away at both self-esteem and family unity? As The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt puts it: "Saying that unwed mothers cause poverty is like saying that hungry people cause starvation." The peerless PBS documentary series "Frontline" offers a rare opportunity for insight in Living on the Edge, a sequel to a 1991 episode Minimum Wages: The New Economy. In this update, correspondent Bill Moyers revisits two families--one Anglo, the other African-American--who continue to struggle and remain intact under severe economic hardships. This "Frontline" airs at 9 p.m. on KERA-TV Channel 13.