As we tick off entries in our checkbook register, we cross-check them with the lovely invention that is the online statement. In trying to create a frugal budget, we researched our spending and found that an excessive amount was devoted to dining out. Makes sense if you look at the meager inhabitants of our fridge, but it's a money-sucker nonetheless. So we aim to cut back on the frivolous drive-through visits and sit-down lunches, but we reserve Thursday for a night out to spend some dough on a good cause...and a meal that wasn't nuked in the microwave. Dakota's Steakhouse, 600 N. Akard St., hosts a kickoff celebration for the annual fund-raiser for Bryan's House, Dining Out for Life. The fund-raiser is scheduled for early March, but Dakota's hopes to get the word out with this early test run. Plus, 25 percent of each bill will go to help the nonprofit pediatric HIV/AIDS service organization and the HIV-positive kiddos it cares for. The kickoff is from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call 214-740-4001.
Friday, February 13
Chicago City Limits seems as though it would be akin to Austin City Limits, but perhaps more blues-oriented in a nod to the Windy City. As much as that sounds like a fair assumption, the show is actually quite the opposite. Instead of inspiring drunken revelry and bleary-eyed she-did-me-wrongs, the show founded by actors from the workshop program at The Second City is a full-throttle assault of interactive and improvisational comedy. No tears, no heartbreak, just laughs. Suggestions from the audience inspire spur-of-the-moment scenes that have in the past resulted in all sorts of situations from musicals to game shows. The troupe has performed with the likes of Paul Reiser, Robin Williams and Brett Butler, so the audiences at the Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive in Richardson, on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. are in a very capable albeit surprising set of hands. Tickets are $24 and $28 and are available at www.eisemanncenter.com or by calling 972-744-4650.
Saturday, February 14
Lately we've become quite the Francophile. David Sedaris' Parisian anecdotes, fashion, old Brigitte Bardot albums and, of course, the Voice of the Sparrow, Edith Piaf. In fact, we can think of but one exception to the rule that everything French is inherently cool: the beret. It's urgent that we, as a society, agree that they're over. Now, while viewing The Triplets of Belleville on Saturday afternoon, there might be a beret sighting or two, but that's acceptable because the movie is a cartoon and--given its dark humor and sweetly disproportionate characters--the presence of the forbidden tam is gently overlooked. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth hosts the Magnolia at the Modern series, and this weekend features the animated conversation piece by Sylvain Chomet. Abduction, a dog and an aging, crazed version of The Andrews Sisters take center stage with French subtitles. And before parents think of showing the little ones some international animation, we'll just say it's PG-13 for language and violence. The "toon de France" begins at 5 p.m. Saturday with tickets ($5.50 for members, $7.50 for non-members) going on sale at 3 p.m. Check www.themodern.org for additional weekend show times or call 817-738-9215.
Sunday, February 15
From a darkly amusing cartoon, we transition to a play by the darkly complex Neil LaBute, the man responsible for appalling audiences the world over with In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty and others. Somehow we suspect that while The Shape of Things is referred to as "Pygmalion Redux" by its performers at Stage West, there probably won't be a neat little love story or pauper-to-prince outcome. In fact, we know there isn't. All we had to hear was "Neil LaBute" to know that this production would bring with it a little controversy and, as is his pattern, some serious betrayal. Excellent. And that's because we're done with the perfect makeover special. We don't much care anymore for the well-dressed packages spawned from tidy TV. Plus, we like a good post-play debate. So, Neil, Stage West: Bring it on. We'll see you at 1300 Gendy St. in Fort Worth on Sunday for the 3 p.m. matinee. We'll be ready for strong language and adult situations. We'll have gotten tickets by calling 817-STG-WEST. It'll be up to you guys to slap us in the face.
Monday, February 16
February is Black History Month, Children's Dental Month, Responsible Pet Owner Month and, of course, National Grapefruit Month. But for the Dallas Stars, that's just not enough. The hockey club has announced that February is also Leap Into Skating Month, and, yes, that does sound painful. It is probably preferable to ease onto the ice if a beginner or perhaps glide onto it if experienced, but common sense begs that we all leave the leaping to the professionals. Whichever method is required to make the shift from carpet to ice, the Dr Pepper StarCenters are all about making the experience convenient and affordable with a monthlong special of $3 per person for public skating sessions and only a buck more for skate rental. All locations (Frisco, Plano, Valley Ranch, Euless and Duncanville) have Monday sessions to freeze the beginning-of-the-week blues and help turn us wall-clingers into triple-axel champs. OK, maybe that's a bit too high an expectation for one month, but we can dream, right? Check out www.drpepperstarcenter.com for rink schedules and locations or call 214-GO-SKATE.