Give us a break. Love doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry. It means never hearing a "thank you" when you pick up dirty socks from the bathroom floor. It's not taking your final breath in his loving arms. It's prying the box of Cheez-Its away from him because he forgot to stop and buy a loaf of bread...again. Sappy, sentimental, romantic stories break the box office. Realistic love finds its way into the "independent" section in the back corner of the rental store. Here's a timeless one that's been emptying boxes of Kleenex for years. A naïve young man woos a worldly courtesan. They get together but are forced apart for someone else's selfish benefit. She pretends to love a wealthy baron. He throws money at her to show his distaste for her former lifestyle and get his great revenge in public. He learns the truth about why she lied about the baron and pushed him away. They reconcile. She dies from tuberculosis--in his ever-loving arms, of course. Add the performance of a play, a windmill, a giant elephant-shaped building and a cabaret version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and it's the movie Moulin Rouge. Add a duel with swords, a country cottage, a Parisian street festival and an aria or two, and it's Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata. And Baz Luhrmann claims to be an innovator. But then Verdi wasn't so original either. Though he supposedly never admitted it, his inspiration was obviously Alexander Dumas' play La Dame aux Camélias, which Dumas the Younger based on his own love affair with a famous Parisian courtesan who died from tuberculosis. Find true love--really, it's your only hope--at the Dallas Opera when American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky portrays the "fallen woman" Violetta Valéry to Texas tenor Marcus Haddock's lovesick Alfredo Germont at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 p.m. February 7 at the Music Hall in Fair Park, 909 First Ave. Tickets are $19 to $234. Call 214-443-1000. --Shannon Sutlief
History is Revolting
Long before Osama Bin Laden was between our crosshairs, we were focused on Ho Chi Minh. Though the rest of their stories are very different, they have one important detail in common. Both were aided by the Stars and Stripes early on and then became targets of their former allies. Time has a nice way of revealing these truths. And here's the Ho Chi Minh side, for example. Inspired by the American Revolution, he led Vietnam to declare independence from France with guidance from the U.S. of A. Yes, the same Ho Chi Minh who caused a complicated Communist stir and a colossal death toll. (And we wonder why the French begrudge us.) Two September, written by Mac Wellman and directed by Katherine Owens for the Undermain Theatre, dusts away the cobwebs from the story of American involvement in Ho Chi Minh's revolt against France, which counted Vietnam among its colonies. Using blacklisted writer and journalist Josephine Herbst, Two September exposes these covert operations. Two September runs through February 21 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and at 8:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $10 on Tuesdays, $15 for Wednesdays and Thursdays and $25 for Fridays and Saturdays. The Undermain Theatre is located at 3200 Main St. in Deep Ellum. Call 214-747-5515. --Desirée Henry
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That Neil Simon writes plays that are fundamentally un-Texan is not enough to detract from their appeal for Texas theatergoers. Why else would the Garland Civic Theatre devote its entire season to his work? With just a little imagination, Garlanders as well as audience members of every Texas persuasion should be able to transport themselves to a small summer cottage in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains in the 1950s, where Burt, who is convalescing from a heart attack, tries to mend his heart by reuniting with his ex-wife at the same time his daughter wants to break off her engagement because of a fling she has had with her fiancee's best friend. Burt's housekeeper, on the other hand, receives a surprise visit from her husband, who returns after disappearing one evening seven years ago. The entire cast takes a heartfelt and sometimes dark ride through family and the power of forgiveness in Simon's kind-of-a comedy Proposals. The play, directed by local theater veteran Cynthia Hestand, has begun its run and will continue through February 1 at the Granville Arts Center in downtown Garland. Contact the theater's box office at 972-205-2790. --Mark Donald
Botti blows his own horn
If passionate trumpeter Chris Botti likes things that are "dark and beautiful," maybe he and I should meet. Not hard on the eyes (or ears, for that matter), Botti uses these words when describing the sound of the rare 1941 trumpet he bought early last year. He says it's like finding a rare Jaguar or Porsche. Must be some horn. His current best-selling contemporary jazz collection is affectionately titled A Thousand Kisses Deep. Uh, huh. He finds inspiration from greats such as Miles Davis, but his earliest musical influence was his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher. Botti has a fortunate history of working with musical veterans such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. He joined Sting's band as a featured soloist on the Brand New Day tour in 1999, and both blond Baldwins will meet again onstage when Botti opens for Sting's Sacred Love tour this month. They will perform at NextStage in Grand Prairie on January 31. The show starts at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $41.50 to $87 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or at 214-373-8000. --Jenice Johnson