"Friendship, not technology, is the only thing capable of showing us the enormity of the world," Steven Dietz says of his play Lonely Planet. In this cleverly written, almost absurdist work, friends Jody and Carl (a map store owner and a pathological liar with a penchant for collecting chairs) face the specter of AIDS in the early '90s. "It's not really about AIDS," says Judy Rawlins, director of the current iTheatre Collaborative production. "It's about living your life in spite of the fact that there is danger around you." Rawlins compares the subject matter to living with terrorism today: "We make choices as to whether that is going to run our lives."
Lonely Planet continues through March 27 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students. For reservations call 602-347-1071, extension 1. -- Quetta Carpenter
Get on the laugh track at the AZ Comedy Competition
One standup will stand tallest when the Arizona State Comedy Competition crowns its champ this weekend at The Venue, 7117 East Third Avenue in Scottsdale. At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 20, 10 finalists -- picked from a group of 30 semifinalists -- get 10 minutes each to prove the might of their comedic stylings. The winner gets $500 and paid gigs at Scottsdale's Comedy Spot and Tucson's Laffs Comedy Club. Admission is $15, plus a two-item minimum. For more information, call 480-945-4422 or see www. thecomedyspot.net. -- Joe Watson
Looks Like They Made It
"Copacabana" takes the stage
Normally, filling your lungs with air and belting out Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" would either land you a pop in the nose or . . . a pop in the nose. But on Thursday, March 18, for one night only, you'll be in good company. Nowhere else will it be socially acceptable to sing lesser-known lines like "Talking Havana have a banana." Manilow and his partners knew that the late '70s song was powerful enough to support a stage play, and its wildly successful tour through London recently proved their hunch. Now, the show is coming to Arizona for a special one-night engagement at the Dodge Theatre, 400 West Washington. Tickets will set you back anywhere from $28 to $43; see www.ticketmaster.com or call 480-784-4444. -- Maidi Terry
Murder, He Wrote
Poe makes a killing
On a dark and stormy night, a traveler takes shelter in a remote mansion where four strangers are haunted by dark secrets. In Murder by Poe, seven of Edgar Allan Poe's stories are woven into a spine-tingling collection of perfect crimes spoiled by the offender's guilt. "This adaptation is structured like a Poe story," says actor Brian Cogman. "My part involves all kinds of fun things -- like murdering my wife with an ax and a strange relationship with a cat."
NYC's The Acting Company presents Murder by Poe Tuesday, March 23, at Queen Creek's Performing Arts Center, 22149 East Ocotillo, and follows with Richard III -- Shakespeare's tale of the hunchbacked, usurping Plantagenet -- on Wednesday, March 24. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $24.95 (or $32 for both shows); call 480-987-5964. --Quetta Carpenter
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A Moving Experience
It's a night of dance at Gammage
Contemporary dance may not be what first comes to mind when thinking of Israel these days, but Batsheva Dance's Deca Dance may change that for at least one night. Set to music ranging from classical to pop, the performance is a compilation of excerpts from eight dances created by former artistic director Ohad Naharin.
"He mixes beauty and anger and serenity and sarcasm," explains Kariann Medina, public relations manager for ASU's Gammage Auditorium, where the troupe performs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23. Ultimately, Naharin reflects modern-day Israeli life -- political strife and all. "I think it will be an experience that [audience members] will remember," says Medina. "For some, it may change their lives." Especially if they sit in the front row -- the interactive dancers have been known to coax audience members onstage.
Tickets are $20 and $30; students, kids, ASU alumni, and groups of 10 or more receive a 50 percent discount. Call 480-965-3434 or see www.ticketmaster.com to order. Visit www.asugammage.com for more information. -- Elizabeth Exline