If one were to meet a man named Chester Nurdiger, would it be a huge surprise that his wife is sexually frustrated? ("She was like a motor so wound up it might just combust." Pardon our inner-noir-monologue.) With no offense to the Chesters and Nurdigers of the world, the name just ain't the most happening, "come hither" moniker. Not to mention that Chester owns a quiet little pet shop and the business doesn't leave scads of time for wifey. ("He was like a father to the animals but distracted and untouchable to the one dame that promised 'forever.'") Enter mysterious Zachary Slade, a guy with one hell of a trashy-romance sort of name whom the Nurdigers hire to help man the shop. Chester Nurdiger or Zachary Slade? Man preoccupied with small, domestic animals or attractive drifter? If you were Mrs. Roxanne Nurdiger, which man offers the more alluring option? ("She had no choice; her pressure cooker was about to boil over.") Our Endeavors Theater Collective stages this very situation with The Artificial Jungle. The ensemble takes the play by the late Charles Ludlum and "envisions it through the skewed-lens perspective of 'film noir realism,'" according to Scott Osborne, OETC artistic director. ("They're gonna blow the lid right offa this dangerous and explosive love triangle.") Sounds like Days of Our Lives live starring Humphrey Bogart and Steve Martin...Wait, that would be like a stage production of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Well, all right, with the humor, suspense, maybe a gun or two and minus the stinky cheese. ("It just might work.") In short, that means spine-tingling murder, raw passion and some pretty hilarious occurrences--all resulting from what the ensemble calls an "ill-fated romance" brought on by "raw animal magnetism." The theater noir opens on Thursday and, after past productions like Extreme Acts and Gorey Stories, the ensemble is undoubtedly poised to astound. Expect a laugh, a gasp--maybe at the same time. ("Sputtering in shock at the scene and her own reaction to it, the doll in Row 5 pulled the flask from her garter and slugged one down.") All performances begin at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday through October 18 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Tickets range from $7 to $20. ("Cheap enough to bring a dame.") Call 214-327-4001. --Merritt Martin
Fun in Dysfunctional
We don't often chat with someone whose acting background is as brave and challenging as Christopher Titus. So when we talked, we got to the point: How did it feel to portray State Trooper No. 1 in 1993's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman? "Groundbreaking for me, frankly. How Pacino felt in Dog Day, close to that." Kidding aside, we liked Titus' self-titled TV show from 2000, and we assume that its quality and original humor--like most good shows on Fox--were the reasons it got canceled. Though Titus added, "If you tell your bosses they're stupid long enough, they fire you." Duly noted. In that wake, Titus brings his new stand-up special to Hyena's Arlington, 2525 E. Arkansas Lane, combining current events with his dysfunctional family. For example, Titus almost blames his daughter's birth, 16 days before September 11, for the latest in worldwide chaos. "Either I gave birth to the female Antichrist or I just have bad timing." What a dad. We asked how his new act is being received, and he pointed to a recent show: "An old woman came up to me and said, 'You make me uncomfortable. You get too close to the truth.' I definitely took that as a compliment." Get too close to Titus on Friday and Saturday. Call 817-226-5233. --Sam Machkovech
Boy + Girl + Doll = Ballet
Theater stages a classic love triangle
Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with a toy doll, boy loses interest in girl, girl dresses up like the doll to win boy, boy finally realizes the doll isn't real and settles for girl. Nope, this isn't a script from a strange and far-reaching soap opera (see Passions for reference) but the basis of the perennial ballet favorite Coppélia. The tale combines the romance between Swanilda and Franz and the story of Dr. Coppélius, a doll maker with a great desire to create a doll with a soul. Franz is the one who sees the doll Coppélia in the window, mistakes her for real and falls in love with her--shafting poor Swanilda. Desperate girls take desperate measures. Texas Ballet Theater presents this classic piece for its season opener. The Ben Stevenson production begins at 8 p.m. October 3 and October 4 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth with a Sunday matinee performance at 2 p.m. October 5. Tickets range from $15 to $87. Call 1-877-212-4280. --Jenice Johnson
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Crazy From the Heat
We know what you're thinking. "Gosh, Observer, our Dallas Symphony Orchestra is great and has had many varied successes in the past, but how amazing would it be if it joined forces with an aging, white-bread pseudo-jazz quartet?" And how. Fear not, music lover, for The Manhattan Transfer rolls into the Meyerson Symphony Center on Friday evening for a weekend stint with the orchestra, including nightly performances Friday and Saturday and a Sunday-afternoon curtain call. Transfer's glossy brand of harmonizing "vocalese" has endured for three decades, and Telarc International's new exclusive distribution of the outfit is an announcement on par with, say, PBS garnering archival dibs on The Capitol Steps. This stop is in promotion of MT's latest live album, Couldn't Be Hotter, which couldn't be more succinct a description. After all, "hot," if nothing else, is most certainly "not cool." Considering that, we can hardly think of a better way to spend between $25 and $115 this weekend, so right...wing it and go. The Meyerson Symphony Center is at 2301 Flora St. Call 214-692-0203. --Matt Hursh