The Best Man
The name of the city of Surprise enables headlines beginning “Surprise family,” “Surprise shooting,” and so on. You get the feeling life there is routinely unpredictable. Compass Players, a two-year-old theater company that, for now, performs in Peoria, is headquartered in The West’s Most Unexpected Town and aims for good surprises, which is thoughtful.
Compass’ current production is Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, which channels real-life midcentury political figures as it follows the story of two candidates for their party’s presidential nomination in competition for the incumbent’s endorsement. That may sound dry, but Vidal was not: He was remarkably queer-positive for a published writer of his era, and he wrote a film in which Jerry Lewis played an extraterrestrial.
The Best Man continues through Sunday, January 28, at Theater Works, 8355 West Peoria Avenue. Opening night’s showtime is 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 11. Buy tickets, $27 to $30, at 623-815-7930 or the Theater Works site. Julie Peterson
John Randall Nelson’s sculptures and mixed-media art often includes lines, dots, and geometric forms. He traces the roots of his work back more than 20,000 years. “Long before the appearance of writing, figurative and nonfigurative images were used in pictorial systems of communication,” he writes of a new exhibition featuring his work.
The show is called “Signs and Cyphers,” and you can be one of the first people to see it when Gebert Contemporary Art Gallery, 7160 Main Street in Scottsdale, presents the free opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, January 11, during the Scottsdale ArtWalk. It’s a chance to chat with the artist about ways his work creates subconscious associations through symbols gleaned from diverse sources. Visit the Gebert Contemporary Art Gallery website. Lynn Trimble
Turns out that snatching fire from the bowels of hell is no simple task, even if your mascot is the Sun Devil. Yes, the ASU men’s basketball team closed out 2017 with a gut-wrenching road loss to the Arizona Wildcats. But so monumental was the task — the Cats are easily the best home team in the country — that the Devils narrow defeat at Tucson’s McKale Center registered hardly a blip on the national radar.
With the most daunting challenge now behind them, the Devils can ill afford to sleep on the solid yet unranked Oregon Ducks when they visit Tempe’s Wells Fargo Arena, 600 East Veterans Way, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 11. Tickets are $20 and up. Visit the Sun Devils website or call 480-727-0000 for details. Rob Kroehler
It’s that time again — when you get the chance to kick back, have a cocktail, and get privy to a handful of folks’ personal experiences, delivered onstage at Valley Bar. Yep, Phoenix New Times’ monthly storytelling event Bar Flies is back.
On Thursday, January 11, the theme is Wildcard. Curator Katie Johnson’s lineup features Jessie Balli, Shawn Putnam, Genevieve Rice, Joe Schmidt, and Matt Storrs. Be prepared to laugh, or spill a tear in your beer as you find out what the theme means to each storyteller.
Let others do the talking starting at 7 p.m. in the basement bar at 130 North Central Avenue. Tickets to the 21-and-over event are $5. Visit the Valley Bar website. Amy Young
What began as a 20-minute act created for Ballet Arizona has transformed into a full-length dance production that marries the illusionist stylings of a dance company called MOMIX with iconic images of the Sonoran Desert — from towering cactus to elusive creatures. It’s called Opus Cactus, and it’s coming to Phoenix thanks to co-presenters Ballet Arizona and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Opus Cactus is the work of choreographer Moses Pendleton, the artistic director for Connecticut-based MOMIX, who shares his overall vision on the dance company’s website: “I continue to be interested in using the human body to investigate the non-human world.” After co-founding Pilobolus in 1971 and creating MOMIX in 1980, Pendleton became one of America’s best-known contemporary dance innovators.
MOMIX will perform Opus Cactus at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams Street, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 12. Get tickets, starting at $35, through the Ballet Arizona box office or the Ballet Arizona website. Lynn Trimble
When it comes to the world of wrestling, there’s more going on besides what you see every week on WWE’s TV shows, pal. A lot more. Indie wrestling is thriving in cities around the world these days, including here in Phoenix, and typically offers more insane and entertaining action that what’s on Raw or SmackDown. Case in point: all the unique and hilarious matches at PartyMania 2.
It’s the biggest event of the year for local indie promotion Party Hard Wrestling and includes eight memorable bouts taking place inside the Nile Theater, 105 West Main Street in Mesa, on Friday, January 12. One of the biggest will be the first-ever “Pizza Party Match,” a free-for-all involving 10 wrestlers battling for PHW’s Golden Fanny Pack. Other matches include Owen Travers challenging PHW Multiverse Champion Jack Jameson for his title, and tag-team champs The Brothers of Wrestling battling The Uninvited. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. See the Party Hard Wrestling website. Benjamin Leatherman
Disco music was a part of an American subculture that brought together people of different backgrounds to express themselves freely. During Good Times: A Disco Party for Boys and Girls on Friday, January 12, DJs Mercurius FM and Fact135 will try to create an atmosphere similar to Studio 54 — albeit a much tamer version, where you can let go of your troubles and boogie to the music.
Mercurius FM is an electronic DJ with 12 years of experience, and Fact135’s a scene veteran with over 20 years behind the turntables. The duo will play a mixture of hit songs and lesser-known music. A special guest DJ will also join the pair on the decks.
The event starts at 9 p.m. at Rips Bar, 3045 North 16th Street. There is no cover, and the club will have free pizza and drink specials. For more information, call 602-266-0015 or visit the Facebook event page. Laura Latzko
You simply can’t see all 150 movies at the Chandler International Film Festival. You could select by nation — Serbia, Mozambique, Ireland, Chile, Norway, Macedonia, Luxembourg, or Hungary. Or consume thematically linked blocks of short subjects. Or go for titles (Office Batman, Ostoja Will Move Your Piano).
Opening night, Friday, January 12, features a world premiere of The Competition at Harkins Crossroads 12, 2980 East Germann Road, at 8 p.m. Admission’s $35, including a red carpet stroll and after-party. Assorted venues host additional events through Monday, January 15, such as workshops and a market for independent filmmakers. Alamo Drafthouse screens The Mad Whale, in which institutionalized women stage Moby Dick with a few minutes of assistance from James Franco.
Prices vary. Visit the Chandler International Film Festival website or call 480-455-5214. Julie Peterson
Before poetry slams and jams and giant clams, there was straightforward recitation before an audience. Poetic language is moving and catchy, partly so that poems could be memorized and transmitted in our pre-literacy days.
Though bongos and smoke clouds have fallen by the wayside, Changing Hands Bookstore’s Friday Poetry series delivers the thrill of uncurated verse penned by everyday people, some of us — we mean some of them — authentically scruffy hippies, some of them not. You’re bound to hear a piece you can relate to and, if you’re very lucky, a piece you can’t relate to. Or read your own.
The next open reading starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 12, at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 or visit the Changing Hands website. Julie Peterson
Ace Comic Con debuts in the Valley on Saturday, January 13. The new convention from the founders of the Wizard World pop culture empire will visit Gila River Arena, 9400 West Maryland Avenue in Glendale, through Monday, January 15.
The convention will bring the “Hall H” experience to the west side, with a stunning list of A-List stars from the recent Captain America and Spider-Man movies including Chris Evans, Tom Holland, and Sebastian Stan. Wrestling superstars Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart, as well as Stan the Man himself, Stan Lee, will appear. Additionally, there will be more than 50 comic artists and writers, and a vendor hall.
Of course, such an amazing lineup doesn’t come cheap. Admission prices range from $45 to $95, with VIP autograph and photo pricing ranging up to $800. Visit the Ace Comic Con website for more information or to purchase tickets. Michael Senft
Maybe you’ve noticed the new book drop at Park Central Mall, 3110 North Central Avenue, where a temporary branch for Phoenix Public Library recently opened. It’s a new resource created to help patrons access library materials and programs while Burton Barr Central Library is temporarily closed for repairs due to last year’s storm damage.
You can explore the branch during a free open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 13. The lineup includes light refreshments, a 10 a.m. family story time, and several afternoon activities including old-school games for teens and a photo booth. Visit the Phoenix Public Library website. Lynn Trimble
Barrett-Jackson produces collector car auctions all over the United States. Arizonans don’t have to travel far, though, to drool over or bid on a selection of automotive masterpieces they assemble. Just visit the 47th Annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction.
Matt Ferguson from the Barrett-Jackson team tells us that there are more than 1,600 cars to ogle, including vintage, sporty, and muscle car styles. New facets include an additional 20,000 feet of covered area, over 250 sponsors and exhibitors, and 70 food vendors. A biggie is the STEAM City display, featuring interactive displays from companies focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
Feed your auto fetish from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 13, at Westworld of Scottsdale, 16601 North Pima Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are $17 to $25 for adults; $14 to $20 for seniors, students, and military; and free for children 12 and younger. Weeklong and VIP passes are also available. The event runs through Sunday, January 21. Visit the Barrett-Jackson website. Amy Young
Showmont: A Show of Sketch Comedy
Ryan Gaumont’s love for The Kids In The Hall and the zany antics of Mr. Show with Bob and David inspired the actor and comedian to form the local sketch troupe Bully Mammoth. The alternative comedy quartet performed around Phoenix for nearly a decade. Now, the self-described “unorthodox rock star” is bringing the laughs for one night only in Showmont: A Show of Sketch Comedy. Gaumont and his friends are incorporating surreal skits, strange videos, and music into a ribald extravaganza of hilarity.
Gather round for funny at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 13, at The SIC Sense Sketch Comedy Troupe, 1902-9 East McDowell Road. Admission is $5. For more information, visit the SIC Sense website. Jason Keil