Bug, Bare, The Golden Acrobats, Spoon, lots of comedy and much more

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Van Ackerman

The Golden Acrobats

ONSTAGE: A SLEEPING COUNTRY, winner of the 2008 Mickey Kaplan Play Prize, continues at the Playhouse in the Park. See Rick Pender's review here.

MUSIC: MUSIC NOW takes over Memorial Hall with four days of experimental Pop music. See cover story here.

ONSTAGE: KING LEAR is presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. See Rick Pender's review here.

ONSTAGE: BUG and BARE It would be hard to go wrong this week as two of Cincinnati's most adventurous Over-the-Rhine theater companies open new shows, both regional premieres. If you want some heavy-duty drama, New Stage Collective offersBug, a 2004 script by Tracy Letts (hisAugust: Osage Countyis a surefire Tony Award winner this season). Bug explores the boundaries between paranoia and reality as a woman holed up in a seedy motel and hiding from her violent ex-husband falls in love with a stranger. Actress Sherman Fracher returns to a role she played in Atlanta (staged by former Cincinnati Shakespeare artistic director Jasson Minadakis), earning much praise from Atlanta reviewers.

Also in the Cincinnati cast is her husband Drew Fracher and Cincinnati Shakespeare veteran Chris Guthrie. If you prefer something musical, check out Bare at Know Theatre of Cincinnati. It's a coming-of-age story about two students at a Catholic boarding school who hide their relationship from their friends. Know stages Bare as a multimedia experience reminiscent of Rock operas likeTommy or Rent, with the feeling of arena Rock shows. Additionally,Bare offers a chance to see another great local artist with a national reputation: Pam Myers, a 1970 Tony Award nominee for the original production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Tickets for Bug are $12-$20 and for Bare $12-$22. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants for Bug here and for Bare here.) — Rick Pender

ONSTAGE: THE GOLDEN ACROBATS You'd be good at acrobatics, too, if you'd been practicing for 27 centuries. The Golden Acrobats, the world's premiere Chinese acrobatic touring company, happen to be the best. With rigorous training starting at a young age, the troupe's skill, strength and elaborate costumes are a prime example of this folk form and traditional practice. The group is coming to Procter & Gamble Hall for one night only to showcase their feats of physical daring and colorful costuming. 7:30 p.m. $20-$30. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Maija Zummo

COMEDY: MICHAEL IAN BLACK WITH MICHAEL SHOWALTER Many comedians go from stand-up to acting, but Michael Ian Black has taken the opposite course. "I really just started doing stand-up a couple of years ago," he explains. "I've always been performing comedy, and stand-up is the latest forum for that. In many ways I'm just kind of a writer who performs." Black is probably best known for his role in the TV series Ed, where he played Phil Stubbs, as well as his work with comedy troupe Stella. He also contributed to VH-1's various I Love' series. "I think they were basically just running through every single person that was on every single television show in the industry," he says of the VH-1 program. "And they just came to my name I think they were going alphabetically and asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, 'Sure.' " That show turned out to be a good forum for Black's humor. "My attitude about it was, 'Just let me go in and give my honest opinion about whatever they throw at me.' And a lot of times you don't know you have an opinion until you start talking about it. I didn't know that I thought He-Man was gay until I started talking about it." Black appears with Michael Showalter at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Madison Theater in Covington. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — P.F. Wilson

COMEDY: PAUL MECURIO Though comedian Paul Mecurio no longer writes for the The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, he still warms up audiences for that program. After going over safety rules and such, he talks freely with the crowd. "For 20 minutes you talk about whatever you like," he says. "It's like survival of the fittest in that environment. You find a way to be funny in the moment by talking to people about anything and everything and that's just carried over into my stand-up act." Indeed, when he's performing in clubs and theaters, he is not shy about jumping out into the audience to talk to people. "I'm just trying to figure out a way, without shooting golf balls out of my ass, to bring something different to the table. It's kind of become part of what I do and what people remember about my act. Some nights I'll do it more than others." Besides chatting with clubgoers, Mecurio talks a little about politics. "People ask, 'Are we ready to elect a woman for president, are we ready to elect an African American for president?' " he says. "Well, if you have to ask, it seems you're not ready." He also talks about bonding with his son. "I took him to (baseball) spring training in Arizona. I wanted to do some bonding, teach him guy stuff. Like shutting down emotionally with women." Mecurio performs Thursday-Sunday at Go Bananas in Montgomery. $10-$15. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — P.F. Wilson

MUSIC: MUSIC NOW takes over Memorial Hall with four days of experimental Pop music. See cover story here.

MUSIC: THE FERVOR Unlike in most band situations, the guiding writing forces of Louisville quartet The Fervor don't have to wait until "band practice night" to share new ideas. In fact, they could just roll over in bed and whisper the ideas into each other's ears. After getting married and moving from Indiana to Louisville, Natalie and Ben Felker formed The Fervor, released a self-titled EP and began touring. On their more recent release, the debut full-length Bleeder, the group (rounded out by drummer Mat Herron and bassist Michael Campbell) displays an elegant and tuneful brand of Indie Pop, one based on soulfulness as much as anything else. Natalie has a versatile, magnetic voice, a mix of spectral haze and something huskier and from the gut (her supple keyboard work is also a pivotal component). The overall sound is magical and mysterious, but never obtuse, recalling the finer moments of Cat Power's discography. The band plays The Comet Friday night for a free show with local heroes Wussy and damn-fine Columbus Indie Pop crew The Kyle Sowashes, who are supporting their new one, Yeah Buddy!. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Mike Breen

ART: FERALMADE This relatively new gallery and store project in Northside is establishing itself as cheeky, hip and mysterious. Their shows generally exhibit a strong "street art" influence, but Plump and Plush, opening Friday, promises that aesthetic and excessively more. The three-person exhibition features Cincinnati's own Jason Brunson, whose neurotic, mouse-like characters and their color-explosion environments have appeared in local venues as diverse as dearly departed Linda Schwartz Gallery and the Public Library's main branch downtown. The increasingly legendary Donald Ross "Scribe" and his lovely and equally sharp wife Alisa Ross are also included in the installations of "wall painting, canvas, paper work, plush and custom painted toys." For more information and a taste of Trevor Grubb's press statement composed of poetic, imaginative riddles, visit the gallery's site at www.feralmade.com. Plump and Plush opens with a reception 7-11 p.m. Friday. The exhibition runs through May 3. 4573 Hamilton Ave. (Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Matt Morris

DANCE: KORESH DANCE COMPANY In case you missed this Philadelphia-based ensemble when it appeared at Northern Kentucky University in January, here's a second chance to catch Koresh. Contemporary Dance Theater's rockin' 35th anniversary season keeps on pleasing with this latest Guest Artist Series installment. Expect some high-octane, high-energy dancing that's bound to knock your socks off when the mighty Koresh Dance Company takes the Jarson-Kaplan stage. Founded in 1991 by Israeli-born choreographer and Artistic Director Ronen Koresh, the group melds jazz, modern (with notable Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham influences) and ballet styles into an explosive alchemy of depth and presence. "Intensely intimate couplings, ballistic kicks, feral pounces and feisty rolling hips raise the energy level in his Philadelphia rehearsal studio into the red zone," wrote Miriam Seidel in a 2004 Dance Magazine article. She describes Koresh's choreography as "technically demanding, high-keyed and sexy." 'Nuff said their performances promise to be hot stuff. 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. $22-$27; $17 students and seniors. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Julie Mullins

ART: GALLERIE ZAUM Quick, witty and sometimes sarcastic, Smart As a Tack shows off the immediate and clear-cut nature of the art of printmaking. David Wischer, a professor at Northern Kentucky University's print department, exhibits approximately 25 pieces at Gallerie Zaum (811 Monmouth St., Newport) as part of a vivid, comical and twisted commentary on everyday things. The show opens 4-10 p.m. Friday during Newport's new WAAM (First Friday art walk) event. After checking it out, continue to meet your art needs at the following venues, which will also be exhibiting interesting local work: Galleries Together; Stained Glass Theatre; Monmouth Theatre/Costume Gallery; York St. Caf/; Steamboat Bagels; and The Southgate House. Free. For more information on WAAM or Wischer's exhibit, call 859-441-3838. (Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Elizabeth Wu

ART: LEAPIN' LIZARD GALLERY will host Chris Schmit's Inspiration Nation exhibition beginning with an opening reception tonight. See Schmit interview here.

MUSIC: MUSIC NOW takes over Memorial Hall with four days of experimental Pop music. See cover story here.

ONSTAGE: RING OF FIRE Most people these days probably know about Johnny Cash best from Walk the Line, the Oscar-winning biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix. But if you're a music lover or grew up in household where his albums were a staple (or both, like me), you appreciate the original Man in Black not only for his musical genius but also for his willingness to stand up for his convictions, regardless of who he pissed off. When President Nixon invited Cash to perform at the White House in 1972, Tricky Dicky wanted Cash to play "Okie from Muskogee," a Merle Haggard song that ridiculed war protesters, and "Welfare Cadillac," a Guy Drake tune that makes fun of welfare recipients. Cash refused and instead played several left-leaning tunes like his own "What Is Truth?" Cash also defended Folk singer and activist Pete Seeger after he'd been blacklisted and introduced Bob Dylan to a Country audience. Although the movie whitewashed the more controversial parts of Cash's life, it still captured the raw beauty of his songs and attracted a new generation of fans to his discography. The Broadway musical Ring of Fire features 38 Cash tunes including "I've Been Everywhere," "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue" and the title track performed by a variety of musicians. The revue visits the Aronoff Center for one show only at 8 p.m. Saturday. $35-$50. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Kevin Osborne

MUSIC: SPOON When Spoon frontdude Britt Daniel once sang, "I won't hold you back/ I won't force my will," he was lying: The Austin, Tex.-based band does nothing if not hold back, forcing their will via stripped-down, concise songs and passionate yet understated playing. Daniel's minimalist fetish is taken to its apex on Spoon's latest full-length, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which is yet another testament to the quartet's longstanding (some say stubborn) dedication to Rock songcraft. Few disguise disgust (or longing) better than Britt, but the politically acerbic album-opener "Don't Make Me a Target" is an exception. Simple, lacerating guitar riffs and drummer du jour Jim Eno's elemental backbeat lock into a classic Spoon groove as Daniel sings of "nuclear dicks with their dialect drawls." What, even Texans are turning on Dubya now? On "The Ghost of You Lingers" Daniel opines, "If you were here would you calm me down or settle the score?" Code: Breaking up is hard to do, which is what seems to have driven many of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga's hook-infested ditties. As for the relationship issue, you'd think Daniel would've been prepared: He titled a previous album Girls Can Tell. Spoon plays Bogart's on Saturday, which is a makeup date for canceling to play Saturday Night Live back in October. 8 p.m. $18.50. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Jason Gargano

EVENTS: HONEYDRIPPER Filmmaker John Sayles' music-laden movie gets a one-night screening at the Cincinnati Museum Center as a fund-raiser for Black Folks Make Movies. See Sayles interview here.

MUSIC: MUSIC NOW takes over Memorial Hall with four days of experimental Pop music. See cover story here.

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