Top Four Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Anjelah Johnson, The Elephant Man, It Was 20 Years Ago Today, and Henry V Closes
Much of comedian Anjelah Johnson's stand-up is based on ongoing characters. In town for a weekend stint, including Friday, Johnson is sure to pull out Tammy, the noisy Vietnamese manicurist with a heavy, almost unintelligible accent. (It was a YouTube video of her nail salon routine that helped launch Johnson's career.) And then there's Bon Qui Qui, the smart-mouthed former fast-food worker who constantly called for security to deal with ''difficult'' customers (she had a really low threshold for special orders: "No cheese, please." "Ah, sacurrity!"). Bon Qui Qui also had a turn as an unhelpful flight attendant ("Don't get crazy!" she'd admonish passengers who interrupted her boom-box performance on the plane's public address system).
Now Johnson has recorded a music video and EP as the ghetto-fabulous cutie. The video is dedicated to Bon Qui Qui past/present/and future philandering boyfriends. It's called "I'm A Cut You."
Johnson says her latest character is her husband of two years, Manwell Reyes from Group 1 Crew. ''I talk a lot about getting used to married life, about my husband. He gives me plenty of material.''
Catch Anjelah Johnson at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 and 9:15 p.m. Sunday. Improv Comedy Showcase, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, visit the club's Web site or call 713‑333-8800. $35 to $45.
Before Joseph Merrick employes his one useful arm, his left, to build a model of St. Phillip's Church, he was an abused star performer in a freak show in Victorian England. His head was monstrously misshapen and he had to sleep upright at night so he was not asphyxiated in his sleep. Some famous actors on stage (Mark Hamill) and screen (John Hurt) have portrayed him, and now the role falls to Jay Sullivan in the Alley Theatre's production of Tony Award-winning The Elephant Man, with two performances on Saturday.
''What we're going for is an empathetic representation physically and vocally of Joseph Merrick,'' Sullivan says.''We're not trying to literally mimic what he looked and sounded like but to show enough elements of it that the audience has a sense of how difficult and painful his life was. But it is still theatrical and intelligible because it's a play. By all reports, he was nearly impossible to understand.''
Merrick is discovered by a London surgeon, Frederick Treves, who moves him to a hospital and begins to work with him, finding that the man thought to be an imbecile is actually very intelligent. Sullivan, who has a movement coach, a physical trainer and a dialect coach for the production, has been practicing at home and in his local grocery store getting around with a cane so that he can show the transformation his character goes through. ''As the play progresses, Merrick will become more physically deformed but more vocally intelligible,'' Sullivan says.
Saying he expects audience members to leave the 90-minute one-act play feeling thoughtful and introspective, Sullivan adds: ''I think the play shows us that the way we separate other people from ourselves and hold them in a frame of being 'other' has to do with our own feelings and apprehensions and insecurities and it gives us permission to make another choice and reminds us of our capacity to make another choice.''
7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Through May 5. 615 Texas. For information, visit the theater's website or call 713-220-5700. $26 to $78.
Also on our list of must-see events this Saturday, there's It Was 20 Years Ago Today Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper's celebration of 20 years of avant-garde theater in Houston. Nodler came to Houston after graduating from college to mount his musical play In the Thunderloo. That project was put on hold when Nodler ventured into politics with the Jerry Brown presidential campaign. After Brown's loss, Nodler returned to Thunderloo, getting some help from Tamarie Cooper and several other friends. That core group, now known as Catastrophic Theatre, has grown and changed over the years, but it's remained true to the idea that theater should shock, mystify, delight, bewilder and amaze audiences.
Marking two decades since that first production, It Was 20 Years Ago Today is part party, part fundraising gala, part showcase and an extra part party thrown in for good measure. Company members will perform songs from past shows including last year's Fleaven (Miki Johnson's farce about rollerskating disco stars), Bluefinger (Nodler's 2010 rock opera based on the album of the same name by Black Francis) and several of the Tamarie Cooper Shows (Cooper's life translated into glitzy over-the-top song and dance spectaculars). ''We never thought it would last and here we are, 20 years later,'' laughs Nodler.
There will be lots to eat and drink and guests are encouraged to don their best 1990s regalia (styled after Monica Lewinski, O.J. Simpson, Billy Ray Cyrus and the Teenaged Mutant Turtles).
8 p.m. Saturday Last Concert Café, 1403 Nance. For information, visit Catastrophic Theatre's website or call 713-522-2723. $60.