To fully appreciate the gritty production of the prison drama In the Belly of the Beast, being staged by the Kitchen Dog Theater from May 10 through May 31, one should know its origin and the dark life of killer-turned-writer-turned-killer-again Jack Henry Abbott. Son of a prostitute, he spent 50 of his 58 years in custody, and was serving time for bank robbery and the murder of a fellow inmate when he began corresponding with famed author Norman Mailer. Impressed by Abbott's insights into man's violent nature, Mailer helped get the letters published into a best-selling book and successfully lobbied for the inmate's release. "Mr. Abbott has the makings of a powerful and important writer," Mailer told the parole board. Just six weeks after leaving prison, Abbott killed again. He later committed suicide, hanging himself in his prison cell. The Kitchen Dog production has been edited, arranged and directed by Adrian Hall and features Dan Day in the role of Abbott. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. Tickets range from $8 to $20. Call 214-953-1055. --Carlton Stowers
Concert offers pickin', grinnin'
This time of year consists of the same folk tale: a season full of pollen counts and sinus medications. But before giving in to that Southern monstrosity called hay fever, pop some sacred over-the-counter antihistamines and head to Fort Worth for a super-duper dose of flat picking guitar and bluegrass fiddling. The Grove at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden will be transformed into a spectacular outdoor concert event with fun for families, lovers and even allergy sufferers. This Friday, Tony Rice, Peter Rowan and Vassar Clemments will grind to the groove of their innovative bluegrass melodies. It's one of those ideal outings where a blanket and picnic basket fit right in. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the hoedown begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 for members, $26 for non-members and $2 more the day of the show; they can be purchased at ticketweb.com or by calling 1-866-468-7621. --Desirée Henry
In the Eye of the Beholder
Art attacks at Theatre Arlington
"Art Snob" vs. "Joe Six Pack." Turtleneck vs. T-shirt. Museum vs. cineplex. The eternal struggle between pretentious indulgence and simple herd mentality continues this Thursday when Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play Art comes to Theatre Arlington. When a collector buys a blank white canvas and declares it a brilliant creation, his friends beg to differ and spark a debate that encompasses anything from the true definition of art to companionship in general. No matter which side of the social/intellectual tug-of-war you're pulling for, Art provides a quality alternative to Sebastian Bach dinner-theater engagements. The show opens Friday and runs through May 25, Thursday through Sunday. The theater is located at 305 W. Main St. Call 817-275-7661. --Matt Hursh
Sit Down, Shut Up
Smooth jazz. It's just the type of thing Mom would like. Not too loud, not too fast. It's the antithesis of that devil's music you blasted during high school, but she never griped too much, did she? Why not return the favor? Danny Wright and Joseph Vincelli will be performing on Mother's Day at 3 p.m. in the Sara Ellen & Samuel Weisfeld Center, 1508 Cadiz. Call 1-800-494-8497. --Leah Gerchario
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Just Be Cos
Bill Cosby, still the home-run champ
At the age of 10, Jerry Seinfeld would sit on the floor of his bedroom crying himself blind as he listened to Bill Cosby albums--"laughing in wonderment at what he was doing," he explains. Four decades on, he is still in awe of Cosby and doubly amazed the child who idolized Cosby would grow up to become friends with him--hugging buddies, each so respectful of the other. But like most of us weaned on early Cosby, on vinyl and I Spy and those wickedly oddball '70s outings with Sidney Poitier, Seinfeld had come to believe his idol had softened, turned into the elder statesman who sells sweet-tooth product and can't believe those kids say the darnedest thing. So when, toward the end of last year's doc Comedian, Chris Rock tells him Cosby only recently put on "the best comedy show I ever saw in my life," Seinfeld reacts with stunned disbelief--jaw dropped, eyes wide-open, that look of yer-kiddin'-me. "Pow, pow--two and a half hours of killer shit--killer shit," Rock insists. "And it's so much edgier now--and mean." Rock relishes the last word, savors it, because it sounds so impossible.It is Cosby--performing at 3 and 6 p.m. May 11 at Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St. in Fort Worth--who hovers over the Seinfeld documentary like some kind of specter; it is Cosby with whom Jerry meets toward film's end, conferring with him the way a young gangster would with a godfather. Cosby, still swaddled in sweaters, radiates a mellow cool Seinfeld seems to bask in. He comes off as the Cos of the '60s, the defiant one with the melted-butter voice, not the paternal version who merely seemed to melt in the '80s and '90s. Cosby, nearly 66, talks about why he does long shows ("I can stop, go back, veer to the side"), why he still performs ("I just love it"), encourages his apprentice to keep on keepin' on ("Isn't it fun that you have taken what is comedy and what is you and now you have a body of work?"). He reflects on the length of his career, on its rewards: "You can go to any bar and be 70 years old and stand beside Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays, Joe Louis, and when those guys say, 'I played the shit out of my game,' you can say, 'I knocked the shit out of mine.'" Yes, he long ago became a father figure, but Cliff Huxtable will, on occasion, encourage his kids to stir up some trouble; there was a time, and perhaps it's not yet passed, when he stirred the shit as well as anyone. Call Bass Hall's hotline at 817-212-4325. --Robert Wilonsky
Better late than never
Hey, guess what? There's even more ballet folklorico coming to Dallas. Who said there wasn't an endless supply? But there's really nothing better than watching an evening's worth of traditional performances telling the story of the Mexican people's victory over those French bastards at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Yeah, nothing. The Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico Company performs Caribbean Freedom, an extravaganza of dance in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Majestic Theater. Call 214-880-0181. --Leah Gerchario
Wear safety goggles if you have dinner reservations this weekend at the Fairmont's Pyramid Room. The delicate crystal at each and every place setting is sure to shatter when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra cranks up Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at the Meyerson with Berlioz's Requiem. Four brass ensembles, 16 tympani and tenor Stanford Olsen fronting the DSO chorus may bust a goblet and, in fact, wake the dead, in keeping with Berlioz's spectacular theatrical interpretation of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. Tickets for the 8 p.m. performances May 8 through May 10 are $15 to $100 and are available by calling 214-692-0203. --Annabelle Massey Helber
Gotta Have Soul
Ruthie Foster is soulful. Whether she's singing one of her originals or covering a Sam Cooke tune, she can captivate a crowd with a voice that fills a room till you're afraid to breathe, worried the walls may burst. She's that powerful. The sad part is, in the grand scheme of things, not too many know her talent. Fortunately for us, on May 12, the Irving Arts Center is bringing Foster to North Texas for its Monday Cabaret series. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Carpenter Performance Hall stage, and tickets range from $20 to $25. 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. Call 972-252-ARTS. --Rhonda Reinhart