The Food Chain: Though Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls; Free Will and Wanton Lust) is one of America's more promising comic playwrights, his writing sometimes straddles the line that divides standup patter from subtler characterization; there's surely no little connection between that and men having an en masse attraction to Silver's humor that mostly eludes those of the more reflective/less reflexive sex. In the off-Broadway hit Chain, Silver strip-mines for yuks in the deep, dark holes of dysfunction and narcissism; the largely unlikable characters here sift through largely unresolvable issues of physical and mental despair by gorging, purging, preening and obsessing. But there is an upbeat ending, of a wretched sort. D. Scott Withers of the Valley's In Mixed Company, the troupe presenting the show, says Silver actually wrote two finales to Chain, and "we picked the happier one, because we thought it was even more pathetic." This week's performances are on Thursday, November 13; Friday, November 14; and Saturday, November 15. All start at 8 p.m. at PlayWright's Theatre, 1121 North First Street. The run continues through Saturday, November 22. Each Thursday is "barter night"; those who bring in $15 worth of nonperishable food items get a small price break, and St. Mary's Food Bank gets the donation. Regular tickets are $16.50, $14.50 for students and seniors, available at Herberger Theater Center and Dillard's (252-8497, 503-5555).
"Icons": So there's a future for that musty mausoleum known as the Scottsdale Galleria after all. A fund raiser for the Smithsonian Institution's under-development Museum of Progress--to be based at the Galleria, 4343 North Scottsdale Road--this traveling exhibit includes about 50 artifacts of Americana from the Smithsonian's collection, from the ruby slippers Judy Garland clicked together in The Wizard of Oz to the stovepipe hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated to the Wright Brothers' airplane. "Icons" closes this week; final viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, November 13; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, November 14; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, November 15; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, November 16. Tickets are $6, $3 for kids ages 6 to 17, available at Ticketmaster; admission is free for younger kids, but tickets are still required. 424-3998, 784-4444.
Ghetto: Phoenix Theatre, 25 East Coronado, has broken out of its cash-cow rut with this challenging morality play by Joshua Sobol, updated by David Lan and based on a true story. Set in Vilna (the "Jerusalem of Lithuania") in 1942, Ghetto centers on a Yiddish theatrical company whose raison d'etre is the amusement of the ghetto's commanding SS officer but whose troupers use their limited freedom of expression to examine the life-and-death issues confronting them. This week's performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, November 13; 8 p.m. Friday, November 14; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, November 15; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, November 16; 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 18; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 19. Presented in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, the production continues through Sunday, November 23. Tickets are $22 and $25, available at the scene and Dillard's (254-2151, 503-5555).
Modest Mouse: The 98-pound weaklings of Mod Mouse "could kick Phish's asses," crows the press release accompanying the trio's tremendous new disc, The Lonesome Crowded West--and there's a butt-kicking we'd like to see. But there's no rock-flack hyperbole or rock-star braggadocio behind this boast; the assertion's artistic--and true. The music of the Issaquah, Washington, band was partially inspired by the Pixies, which might strike those of the doltish persuasion as passe, though all Black Francis' gang did was release album after album of fine stuff that's still supremely spinnable today. Mod Mouse also owes a debt (one it acknowledges) to Talking Heads, especially More Songs About Buildings and Food, whose greatness is inarguable. Though the Mice are young, they're smart as whips; and though they write of dark days and empty lives--their own included--their future seems bright and without limit. 764-HERO, Carissa's Weird, and the Les Payne Product open. The all-ages show starts at 8:30 p.m. Friday, November 14, at Boston's, 910 North McClintock in Tempe. The cover is $6. 921-7343.
Valley Song: The drama by Athol Fugard (Master Harold . . . and the Boys; The Blood Knot) is, like most of Fugard's works, South Africacentric but universal. The playwright's first work since the fall of apartheid, Valley Song relates simultaneous tales of upheaval centering on the cultural (growing pains on the karoo created by the advent of modernity and democracy) and the personal (the straining of the bond between traditionalist Abraam "Buks" Jonkers--portrayed by Jerome Kilty--and Buks' big-city-on-the-brain granddaughter, Tamilla Woodard's Veronica). The Arizona Theatre Company production opens with a preview at 8 p.m. Friday, November 14, in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. The press opening is at the same time Saturday, November 15. The rest of this week's performances are at 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, November 16; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 19. A discussion follows Sunday's matinee; Wednesday's show is audio-described for the visually impaired. The production continues through Saturday, November 29. Tickets range from $19.50 to $32.50, available via ATC, Herberger or Dillard's (256-6995, 252-8497, 503-5555).
Primus: If Les Claypool's trio isn't our favorite band of all time, its influence this decade has been undeniable, its tightness unmatched--or, at least, it was before drummer and former Phoenician Tim Alexander gave way to Bryan "Brain" Mantia (Alexander's new outfit, Laundry, also returns this week; see the Sounds listing). The jury's still out on the Brain, though it came in long ago with a guilty-with-extreme-prejudice verdict re: Claypool's crazed-weaselhood, though that's crazed-weaselhood like a fox. If any band has inherited the divine-madness mantle of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention in the '90s, it's likely San Francisco's Primus, the band that gave us those white-dope opuses Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Pork Soda. In support of their latest platter du tour, The Brown Album, Claypool and company are scheduled Friday, November 14, at Mesa Amphitheatre, Center and University. Limp Bizkit, and Powerman 5000 are the openers; showtime is 6 p.m. Tickets are $18.50 in advance, $21 the day of the show, available at Mesa Community Center and Dillard's box offices (644-2560, 503-5555).