Top Five Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody, plus Memory House, the Iranian Film Festival and More
We knew it was only a matter of time before "mommy porn" hit the stage and here it is with the new musical SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody, our must-see show for Friday. Written and directed by Jim Millan (Kids in the Hall, Marijuana-Logues with Tommy Chong), SPANK! is loosely based on the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James. The stage show adds a little much-needed satire. Actually, a lot of much-needed satire. (Think Saturday Night Live meets Chippendales and you get an idea of the SPANK!'s tone.) The original story featured 22-year-old Anastasia Steele and an impossibly wealthy and handsome business magnate, Christian Grey. In SPANK!, the sexually adventurous lovers are Tasha Woode (played by Alice Moran) and Hugh Hanson (Patrick Whalen). The books caused a literary uproar when they were released and dozens of Grey wannabes have flooded the market trying to recapture James's sexy magic). The Grey author hasn't authorized the SPANK!, but we're guessing even she'd get a giggle or two out of it.
See SPANK! at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Wortham Theater, 501 Texas. For information, visit the Society for the Performing Arts Houston website or call 713-227-4772. $39 to $49.
Not interested in "mommy porn?" We've got another Friday option, Memory House. Several years ago, playwright and college professor Kathleen Tolan interviewed a woman who had adopted a six-year-old girl from a village in Russia and brought her to New York City. In the play, Tolan paired that adopted-from-Russia daughter idea -- moving the character's age to her late teens -- with some of her own experiences as a parent whose daughter had just undergone the college admissions process. The resulting play, set in a kitchen at night, matches mother Maggie -- trying to put together a blueberry pie -- with her critical daughter Katia, who is carping at mom while avoiding writing the college essays that are due at midnight. "Teenagers are much more kind of given to extremes and black-and-white assertions and that's really compelling," Tolan says of the play, which was first performed in 2005 and is making its regional premiere at Main Street Theatre. But this story "of leaving home and being left," Tolan says, isn't just tension and sadness; it has humor throughout. Main Street Theatre Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden (a parent in real life) will play Maggie, while Joanna Hubbard (Life Is a Dream) plays Katia.
Memory House hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through February 10. Main Street Theater, Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, visit the Main Street Theater website or call 713-524-6706. $20 to $36.
We're not trying to spread rumors, but our choice for Saturday, comedian Dominique is a bona fide stamp stealer. Before she was performing on Def Comedy Jam and Chappelle's Show, she was a Washington, D.C., postal worker, though not a very scrupulous one. She admits she took 20 books of stamps as a perk when she quit to pursue comedy full-time, a sort of parting gift to herself. But she notes that Jesus has her back on stuff like that. "If it don't make you happy, pray over it and let it go," she says. "That's why I don't pay credit card bills anymore. I prayed and Jesus told me, let it go. So I sent the company the letter that Jesus sent me. And I told them if they kept playing with me, they gonna get struck down." That attitude might not do much for her credit score, but she notes that bad credit has its perks: "You don't have to worry about identity theft."
Dominique gets funny at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Improv Comedy Showcase, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, visit the Improv website or call 713-333-8800. $15 to $27.
The Annual Iranian Film Festival, now in its 20th year, brings some of the best in recent Middle Eastern cinema to Houston for a two-week stint. Among the films is Till Schauder's The Iran Job which screens on Sunday. The documentary follows Kevin Sheppard, an American basketball player who joins an Iranian team in 2008. He tries to separate sports and politics, but finds that in Iran, Islam dictates even basketball (women are forbidden to watch some games, for example). A tall African American with a flashy style of play, Sheppard stands out on and off the court. Surrounded by anti-American propaganda and yet admired for his contribution to his team, Sheppard is befriended by a trio of women who enjoy his more open attitude towards them. Husband-and-wife filmmakers, director Till Schauder and producer Sara Nodjoumi will join the audience via Skype to discuss their experience making the film, including Schauder's detention and eventual blacklisting by Iranian authorities.
See The Iran Job at 5 p.m. January 20 and 5 p.m. January 26 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. Festival screenings continue through February 2 at the MFAH and Rice Media Center, 6100 Main. For information, visit the museum's website or call 713-639-7515. $5 to $10.
Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser says he'd always wanted to come sing in Houston and now he's gotten his wish; he'll be playing the role of the good-looking riverboat gambler Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat on Sunday as the Houston Grand Opera under Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers expands its offerings. It helps that Kaiser, who debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2007 as Romeo in Roméo et Juliette, is a fan of musicals and of Jerome Kern, who wrote the music for Show Boat with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical, adapted from an Edna Ferber novel, is set in the years from 1880 to 1927 and tells the lives of people working along the Mississippi River. Famous songs from it include "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and racial bigotry isn't the only hard truth exposed here. Even if you've watched the movie or seen earlier stage productions, Kaiser says this is a Show Boat not to miss. "One thing that's really great about doing this in an opera house is that you have operatic voices doing it. I can't wait for people to hear [American mezzo-soprano] Sasha Cooke's Magnolia and [Atlantan] Morris Robinson as Joe; goodness gracious, I think they've put together a really great team."
Show Boat sails at 7:30 p.m. January 18, 26, 30 and February 1, 6 and 9; 2 p.m. January 20 and February 3. For information, visit the Houston Grand Opera website or call 713‑228‑6737. $33 to $325.
Margaret Downing and Bob Ruggiero contributed to this post.