Tear Jerker

It's impossible not to cry at some point when reading the work of John Irving. The New Englander has a gift for sideswiping his readers with a cheap shot of the sharpest emotion, and yet he appeals to the mother, the air-traveler, the romantic and many of the readers who don't seem to subscribe to the traumatic genres of literature. What he writes, however, is most definitely traumatic and confusing because, well, it's lush and rather pretty.The World According to Garp, one of Irving's more well-known ventures thanks to the movie starring Robin Williams, Glenn Close, John Lithgow and others, is a compost of relationships, birth, death, self-identity and ambition. The same could be said, though, for any of his other books, such as A Prayer for Owen Meany or Hotel New Hampshire. If an artist's product is a reflection of himself, then Irving's lecture at 8 p.m. Tuesday is an experience that any fan of his work should be privy to. Furthermore, curiosity itself mandates a visit just to see the man behind all of the complex characters of his books and their subsequent film adaptations.

Even a die-hard anti-Irving can't argue his attention to character development. No experience in his characters' lives is without importance in whom that character is or is to become. This in particular is what makes Irving such a realistic storyteller. Aside from the fact that much of his tales are based on his own adventures, the appeal of his stories stem from their being so normal and that certain respect he gives to everyday events--that they shape a life.

Maybe too much credit is being given, maybe this is gushing, but when an author appeals to such diverse audiences addressing topics as non-threatening as boarding school life and as controversial as abortion, something good is happening.Season ticket holders to the Tate Lecture Series and SMU-ers may have a hold on the sold-out show, but "sources" say calling the Lecture Programs Office a couple of days before the event may let you score some canceled seats for the performance. McFarlin Auditorium is located at 6400 Hillcrest. Call 214-768-8283. --Merritt Martin

Composer sounds off
Listen up, hip-hop fans and indie rockers. Whether you're dancing around the living room to Spooky's beats or you're jamming in your headphones to The Locust, you have an old white guy to thank. And, no, we don't mean Daddy for giving you the money for those discs. We're talking about Steve Reich, who writes classical music. But this isn't your daddy's classical music (unless your pops is real cool). It's tape loops that start out together, diverge and come back together. In other words, it's tape manipulation that anticipated hip-hop by a decade. TITAS presents The Steve Reich Ensemble at 8 p.m. Saturday at McFarlin Auditorium, 6400 Hillcrest, on the campus of SMU. Tickets are $10 to $55. Call 214-528-5576. --Shannon Sutlief

Star Power
You may never have a better chance to get all cosmic and moody with 200 men crooning songs like "Moon River" and "That Old Devil Moon." The Turtle Creek Chorale is firing up its assemblage of vocal chords for A Music Lover's Guide to the Universe. Explore heavenly bodies with Hoist's "The Planets" and Daley's "The Stars are With the Voyager." True lunatics will enjoy the Dallas premiere of "Stargazing," featuring J. Granville Eakin III's reflections on man's celestial connections from variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to Native American tradition. 8 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Tickets are $13.50 to $33.50. Call 1-800-494-8497. --Annabelle Massey Helber

Punk Not Dead
When it comes to American punk rock, two bands stand pensive headed and stressed shoulders above the rest: Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys. Both outfits have come and gone, but their resonance is easily apparent today. Like Flag's Henry Rollins, DK's front man Jello Biafra has some venom to spew and some stories to tell in the form of a spoken-word performance Friday at The Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth. Think MTV is evil? Is "Orwellian" more than a fantastical adjective? Or just frustrated with all the damn corruption? Biafra may be your man. We'll always miss the three chords, but at least we'll get Jello's version of The Truth. The Ridglea Theater is located at 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd. Call 817-738-9500. --Matt Hursh

Murder Inc.
Have a side of death with your chicken wings
What do you know? Sting was right. You can turn a murder into art--or at least something that sort of resembles art.

Murder Mystery Players Inc. will tear down the wall between actors, audiences and bus boys with two plays at Dallas Dave & Buster's restaurants beginning Saturday. (Shows continue Saturdays until May.)

The troupe describes itself as "America's largest interactive theater company," which raises the obvious question: What's the second biggest, or the fifth. This is a competitive industry, is it?

Murder Mystery Players Inc. also boasts on its Web site that it provides "teambuilding and corporate training to motivate and inspire your workforce." Well, thanks, guys, but when it comes to the workplace we don't need a theater company to inspire thoughts of mayhem. We have bosses for that.Still, audience members will have a shot at winning prizes as they help solve two comedic killings dramatized in Country Club Capers and Etiquette for a Murder. The first concerns lust, blackmail and murder among the golfing set; the second involves the demise of an etiquette guru. A sample of the "humor" the players will offer: The victim in Etiquette is a doctor named Rick R. Mortis.Sigh.

Etiquette for a Murder will be onstage beginning 8 p.m. Saturday at the Dave & Buster's at 8021 Walnut Hill, 214-361-5553; Country Club Capers performances begin 8 p.m. Saturday at the D&B at 2601 Preston Road, 214-387-0915. Tickets are $29.95 for both. Reservations are required. --Patrick Williams

Folk Implosion
Trust me, nobody cares anymore if "Puff (the Magic Dragon)" is about a boy and his friendly dragon or a boy and his joint. Though, if I had a hammer, I'd probably put it to good use on anybody who seriously wants to continue the debate. The folk trio of Peter, Paul & Mary has been producing both silly and socially conscious songs for more than 40 years, winning fans from baby boomers to Generation X. True fans roll their eyes when neophytes identify "Leaving on a Jet Plane" as "that song from Armageddon." Times have changed, but not so much that hits like "Blowin' in the Wind" have no meaning. In fact, those songs and others have particular resonance in an era that's not so different from the late '60s--a different war, but a similar sentiment. Last of all, "I would like to say a word or two--I know you won't be thinking this applies to you, but it's true, and it do": Whether you have gray hair or a pink Mohawk, Peter, Paul & Mary have a song for you. The trio performs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. Tickets are $35 to $100. Call 214-692-0203. --Michelle Martinez

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