Sincerity Forever and The A Merkin Dream: Naked Mirror Productions presents two one-act plays together, the first a Southwest premiere by one of the country's leading dramatic innovators and the second a world premiere by a young pup in the theatre world. Dallas theater-goers are most familiar with Mac Wellman through the numerous productions of his work staged by Undermain Theatre. If you've never seen a Wellman play, you should be warned about two things--he usually dispenses with plot and creates absurdist comic frameworks on which to hang his scattered observations, and he is a writer so in love with language, it's the driving force of his pieces, not characterization or action. In other words, Wellman is a playwright who demands your undivided attention. Given that, and a director and cast who understand the intricacies of the material, you will be rewarded with an evening full of spectacularly articulated outrage aimed at the idiotic side of culture and society. His Sincerity Forever is a scathing attack against Jesse Helms and his merry-band of smut police, set in a social vacuum in which everyone knows for certain what constitutes a dangerous idea. A companion piece to Sincerity Forever is The A Merkin Dream, a one-man show written by and starring Don Rackett. The press material describes this one as "a look at the man of the '90s discovering his place on this planet." It also has "a Texas flair." Sincerity Forever and The A Merkin Dream are performed back to back Friday, 8:15 pm; Saturday, 4:15 & 8:15 pm; and Sunday, 7:15 pm through February 4 at the Swiss Avenue Theatre, 2700 Swiss Avenue. Tickets are $8-$10. Call 680-4466.
Irregular Pearl: Folks who are accustomed to classical music that's genteel, predictable, and with perfect pitch and tone might be in for a surprise if they stumble into the latest concert by Dallas chamber music ensemble Irregular Pearl. It's not that the instrumentalists here are less than proficient with the music--it's that the instruments on which they perform are deliberately archaic--models of the strings and woodwinds from the classical area, which weren't created to complement modern concert-hall sound systems, much less universally agreed-upon standards of sound. You'll be able to recognize compositions on the program for the group's "Clearly Classical" show, which includes quartets by Mozart and Haydn and quintets by Cambini and Bach, but you've probably never heard renditions quite like thesehaunting, otherworldly, with a rough edge here and there born of a passion for authenticity. Irregular Pearl performs at 3 pm in the auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N Harwood. Tickets are $5-$7.50. For more information call 821-5049.
I Worst of All: The Major Theatre presents the United States theatrical premiere of a very controversial 1990 film by 70-year-old Mexican filmmaker Maria Luisa Bemberg, who received an Oscar nomination 10 years ago for her movie Camilla. A sort of psychological suspense thriller-romance-historical epic-tragedy rolled into one, I Worst of All, based on a novel by Latino literary great Octavio Paz, joins two subjects guaranteed to raise blood pressures--sex and religion. Paz's book and Bemberg's film explore the relationship between a real-life 17th century nun and poet, Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz (Assumpta Serna, who played the femme fatale in Almodovar's freaky sex comedy Matador) and the woman who inspired much of her most passionate verse, a viceroy's wife played by Dominique Sanda. Their intense but (initially) chaste romance plays out against the backdrop of the Inquisitions, a cultural force that eventually sucks them both in. The Major Theatre, located at 2830 Samuell, screens I Worst of All every evening except Monday at 8 pm beginning January 13, with Saturday and Sunday matinees scheduled. Tickets are $6. Call 821-FILM.
The Dream of Valentino: The Dallas Opera stages the Southwest premiere of Dominick Argento's The Dream of Valentino exactly a year after its world debut behind the footlights of the Washington Opera. Argento is the composer and Charles Nolte the librettist of this critically revered study of Rudolph Valentino, the most famous leading man of the silent film era and an actor whose world-wide image was quite close to the real man. In truth, Valentino was a man of insatiable sexual appetites, racking up a staggering number of lovers over the course of his short and turmoil-ridden life. Indeed, film historians and biographers have reached a near-consensus that Valentino's inability to keep his pants zipped contributed significantly to a long list of professional, financial, and personal woes. More than a few of these difficulties were set into motion by ex-lovers, either out of spite, jealousy, or an intimate knowledge of the weaknesses in the idol's personality that might easily be exploited for gain. Argento is a man who specializes in placing historical figures into eloquent, tragic dreamscapes born of their own imaginations, as anyone who caught the previous collaboration between he and Nolte, The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, can attest. The Dream of Valentino gets its last performance at 7:30 pm at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $20-$95. For information call 443-1000 or 373-8000.
Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth: This is the sixth choreographers showcase for Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth, which makes it part of its mission to provide a showcase for the works of contemporary choreographers from all across the country, but especially Texas and the Southwest. Three of the eight short works to be presented here are premieres. They include "Into the Wind," a dance for three women by Chicago artist Hollis M. Johnson and set to the music of Arvo Part; "The Couch," a collaboration between Dallas artist Sherri Lacy and her composer husband Frank, combining several rollicking contemporary sounds; and "Anomie," by Fort Worth artist Andrea Harris, a quartet about the joys of coupling. In addition, Daryl Sneed from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre performs a solo work, and Dallas choreographer Holly Williams sees her work "Love-O-Rama" set to the music of Spike Jones and performed by special guests The Kaleidoscope Dance Company. Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth performs January 13 and January 14 in the orchestra Hall, 4401 Trail Lake at Granbury in southwest Fort Worth. Tickets are $6-$10. For information call 335-9000.
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Mavis Staples: Mavis Staples possessed one of the most subtle and versatile voices in '60s rhythm and blues. But her subsequent career has taken an all-too-familiar path for female soul singers. "Adrift" is the best adjective to describe Staples, who emerged out of the urban black church with her father and two sisters and, as The Staples Singers, was the second most important creative force of that outfit. The Staples Singers were intriguing because they toyed with virtually every technique and inflection to characterize post-War African-American popular music--jazz, gospel, blues--while holding more in common thematically with white folk singers like Dylan and Phil Ochs. Their songs were didactic ("Respect Yourself"), socio-political ("City in the Sky"), utopian ("Come Go With Me"), and even impatient ("You've Got To Earn It"). Pop Staples was the song-writing conscience of the group, as well as an occasional vocalist who exerted a strong influence on Curtis Mayfield, and Mavis was the diva, the belter, the vocal actress who gave exquisite meaning to her father's apocalyptic yearnings. Throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s she has drifted from project to project with no discernible sense of purpose, hooking with songwriters and collaborators (most notably Prince, in a mediocre project for his aborted Paisley Park label) and making music that's rarely less than listenable, if too often lackluster. Staples has a gravelly contralto that's both soulful and suggestive of animal cravings. She gives a rare live performance for the Junior Black Academy's celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Mavis Staples performs at 7 pm in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora in the Arts District. Tickets are $15-$25. Call 658-7144.
Marianne Williamson: Listening and watching Marianne Williamson speak, the objective witness is likely to struggle with two distinct impressions. The initial one is impressive tinged with a modest amount of awe--she is hands-down the most graceful and sincere speaker of that very crowded profession we might label "celebrity spiritualists"--people like Deepak Chopra and John Bradshaw and Robert Fulghum and Robert Bly. If her sometimes startling insights about fear of death and pain aren't original, she can certainly convey them with enough warmth and gravity to make you feel as if she's a wise oracle. And then, just as your mind starts to wander, you realize you are watching a performance, a low-key but passionate reading of metaphysical non-sequiturs. Out of context, her advice on enlightenment and dealing with others is meaningless--simply put, she tells us everything's really okay. This is the idea behind every great world religion--that tragedy and suffering can be overcome in one way or another, that bliss can be achieved if you follow the instructions--but Williamson skips the meal (the history, ritual, knowledge, culture of religion) and heads straight for dessert (promises of salvation). If, however, you gather genuine courage and comfort from her words, then she's done her job. Marianne Williamson speaks at 7 pm at the Unity Church, 6525 Forest Lane between Hillcrest and Preston. Tickets are $30. For more information call 233-7106.
J. Jaye Gold: With his first book Another Heart in His Hand, rambling man-turned-published introspective J. Jaye Gold attempts to distill in brief form the wisdom given to him by a traveling companion, mentor, and elder professional poker player. By "professional poker player," we mean a gentleman who hits all the major gambling spots throughout the Americas, earning his living as he goes along with methods that veer close to shady. If this sounds like a movie, don't be surprised if, in the next couple of years, a film with "Story by J. Jaye Gold" is released, but for now, Mr. Gold has set his mind to a more serious task--the sincere presentation for inspirational purposes of his ex-partner's observations on human nature. If Another Heart In His Hand sounds like a Buscaglia-esque Thoughts For the Day tome gussied up in noirish clothes, you should be cautioned that the book's attitude toward life is often less than soundbite-sunny. The old poker player sees life as an experience of constant scheming to gain control, or achieve "victory" in some personal sense, but he still stops along the way to appreciate his partners around the table. Decide for yourself exactly where the author and his subject end. J. Jaye Gold reads and signs copies of his book at 7 pm at Borders Books and Music, 10720 Preston at Royal. It's free. Call 363-1977.
A Tale of Two Cities: The late Charles Ludlam produced, with his threadbare-but-manic Ridiculous Theater Company, a bastion of camp applied to serious satirical purposes in a town where the attitude toward live theater can easily compromise the final product. One of Ludlam's proteges, Everett Quinton, earned critical raves for his adaptation--under the Ridiculous banner--of A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens' lumbering epic about the French class upheaval. Perhaps Quinton sensed the secret hostility so many young readers feel toward that book, because he simultaneously narrowed and widened the mini-series-length narrative--by putting it in the mouth of a drag queen. This A Tale of Two Cities is a one-man show in which a female impersonator with dreams of hitting the big time discovers a baby left on his doorstep. In order to pacify the squalling infant, he gives a dramatic reading of Dickens' version of the French Revolution, playing both the male and female parts. Sound like an excuse for someone to chew the scenery? That's what someone else at Theatre Three thought, so they called Lawrence O'Dwyer, the city's preeminent ham, and removed his leash. No matter what else happens, you can be sure the pace won't drag. A Tale of Two Cities opens January 15 and is performed Tuesday-Friday at 8:15 pm; Saturday at 2:30 & 8:15 pm; and Sunday at 2:30 & 7:30 pm through January 29 at Theatre Three, Routh Street in the Quadrangle. Tickets are $10-$23. Call 871-3300.