Calendar for the week

november 20
The Food Chain: Though Nicky Silver 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." Final performances are on Thursday, November 20; Friday, November 21; and Saturday, November 22. All start at 8 p.m. at PlayWright's Theatre, 1121 North First Street. 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).

GameWorks Tempe Opening: The GameWorks chain, a co-creation of DreamWorks SKG's Steven Spielberg, Sega GameWorks, and Universal Studios billed as "a new breed of [nightclub that] redefines play" and--more grandiosely--as "the future of entertainment," unveils its fifth location out of a potential worldwide web of hundreds on Thursday, November 20. The opening coincides with the public debut of Tempe's Arizona Mills mall, which should really snarl things up at the already traffic-challenged intersection of Priest and Baseline. But back to fun and games; the ones on display at GameWorks--about 210 total--include those of the competitive/interactive strain, plus cutting-edge and classic arcade stuff. Oh, yeah, and there are both conventional and coffee bars. Admission is free; hours are 11 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays to 1 a.m., 11 a.m. Fridays to 2 a.m., 10 a.m. Saturdays to 2 a.m. 839-4263.

Otello: Arizona Opera reprises Verdi's great, late-period work, based on the Bard's intimate tragedy about the noble Moor's love for the purehearted Desdemona and his betrayal by the nasty little man named Iago. Eduard Ruivenkamp and Larry Thomas alternate the title role, Julie Newell portrays Desdemona and the Phoenix Symphony provides accompaniment. Performances, in Italian with English surtitles, are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 20; 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 21; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, November 23, at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Tickets range from $14 to $56, available at the opera's box office and Dillard's (266-7464, 503-5555).

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 continues with performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, November 20; 8 p.m. Friday, November 21; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, November 22; 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, November 23; 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 25; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 26, in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Thursday's matinee is audio-described for the visually impaired; a discussion follows Tuesday's show; Wednesday's show is interpreted in American Sign Language. The production continues through Saturday, November 29. Tickets range from $19.50 to $32.50, available via ATC, the Herberger or Dillard's (256-6995, 252-8497, 503-5555).

Gerry Spence: The Western wildcat of a lawyer is known for his cowboy garb, outspoken eccentricity and habit of winning cases. Spence discusses and signs copies of O.J.: The Last Word, his take on America's most infamous trial, at noon Thursday, November 20, at Borders Books & Music at Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, Suite 200 (957-6660); and at 5 the same afternoon at the new Southwest Story Teller at Arizona Center, 455 North Third Street, Suite L270 (495-6062).

november 21
The Gate of Heaven: Thematically in key with Phoenix Theatre's Ghetto (see the Performance listing or the related story on page 59), this two-man piece by San Francisco playwrights/actors Lane Nishikawa and Victor Talmadge tells a similarly fact-based though little-known tale of World War II: that of the Japanese-American Army company that helped to liberate the Jewish prisoners of Dachau in April 1945 while its own friends and relations were interned in U.S. camps. Nishikawa and James Carpenter, respectively, enact the roles of Sam and Leon, who form a bond that transcends the passing of time and their differences of birth. Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, November 21; 8 p.m. Saturday, November 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, November 23, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Saturday's show is interpreted in American Sign Language. Tickets are $22 and $26, available at the center and Ticketmaster (994-2787, 784-4444).

Abra Moore: Though Moore's navel-gazing solo debut didn't even hint at such promise, Strangest Places, the sophomore disc by the Poi Dog Pondering co-founder, makes a case that the gangly singer/songwriter from Texas via Hawaii might be something truly special. Places is listenable throughout, full of finely rendered ear candy with a club-friendly beat. A few of the selections even approach the sublime, the most significant the lovely, off-tempo "Happiness," a misleadingly simple song that's really about the hamster-wheel pursuit of happiness. Moore performs two free shows on Friday, November 21. The first is at 6 p.m. at the new Virgin Megastore at the Arizona Mills mall, Priest and Baseline in Tempe (268-1500); the second starts at 8 at the Bash on Ash, 230 West Fifth Street in Tempe (966-5600).

"Physical Fiction: Electronic Installations by Sara Roberts": Northern California teacher/artist/technologist Roberts is a master of integrated, viewer-responsive electronic installations that create "portraits of common relationships." In her piece "Elective Affinities" (named after the Goethe novella), Roberts tracks the complex interplay between four occupants of a moving car. Explains the exhibit's curator, Heather Sealy Lineberry, "Depending upon [his or her] location, the visitor triggers a soundtrack of thoughts. . . . The story will be different each time you visit, depending on which soundtracks are activated as you move around the space." The show opens with a reception for Roberts from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, November 21, and continues through Saturday, January 31, 1998, in the Experimental Gallery at the Arizona State University Art Museum at Matthews Center, located at the intersection of Cady and Tyler malls on the ASU campus in Tempe. Viewing is free; regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 965-2787.

The Food Chain: See Thursday.
Otello: See Thursday.
Valley Song: See Thursday.

november 22
Mike Watt and the Black Gang Crew: Watt, the ace of alt bass, probably wouldn't appreciate our play on words, but he also wouldn't slug us for it. One of the truly decent dudes in rock, the self-taught Watt's also one of its worthiest artists; the DIY guy (the Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is unflinchingly, unapologetically experimental. Mike and his new touring band (guitarist Joe Baiza, drummer Stephen Hodges) are out in support of the new disc Contemplating the Engine Room, which Watt describes, a bit oxymoronically, as a "punk rock opera." Dead Hot Workshop, and Satellite are the openers. Showtime is 9 p.m. Saturday, November 22, at Nita's Hideaway, 1816 East Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the show, available at Ticketmaster. 967-9531, 784-4444.

Arizona Kidney Foundation Authors Luncheon featuring Erica Jong, Sally Quinn and Lynn Sherr: The 18th annual fund raiser features readings by Jong (Fear of Flying, the new Inventing Memory: A Novel of Mothers and Daughters); the Washington Post's sassy style maven, Quinn (The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining); ABC-TV correspondent Sherr (Tall Blondes); plus novelist Barbara Delinsky and mystery author James Patterson. The event starts with a book signing at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, November 22; lunch follows at noon, and the readings begin at 1. The scene is the Grand Ballroom at the Phoenician, 6000 East Camelback. Tickets are $65; reservations are recommended. 840-1644.

The Food Chain: See Thursday.
The Gate of Heaven: See Friday.
Otello: See Thursday.
"Physical Fiction": See Friday.
Valley Song: See Thursday.

november 23
The Articles: Is anyone else turning simultaneously pale and green around the gills re: the thought of yet another third-wave ska band? This t-wave group, from Detroit, is better than most of the acts multiplying like pond scum in the wake of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' breakthrough, because it puts a different spin on the same old song and dance with a shaken-not-stirred highball of Jamaican roots and American cocktail jazz. Dave's Big Deluxe shares the stage at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School, on Sunday, November 23. An all-ages show is scheduled at 6 p.m.; a 21-and-over concert follows at 9:30. The cover is $5. 265-4842.

The Gate of Heaven: See Friday.
Otello: See Thursday.
Valley Song: See Thursday.

november 24
The Promise Ring: God, it's good to hear songs about real feelings and stuff again from people without receding hairlines and expanding waistlines. And though Davey vonBohlen and the rest of the youngbloods in this Milwaukee-born crew have distanced themselves from the Emo tag they so heavily (and, in many ways, erroneously) towed behind them on their last tour, their songs still resonate with refreshing conviction, passion and charm. Touring behind its second disc, Nothing Feels Good, the Ring's scheduled Monday, November 24, at Hollywood Alley, 2610 West Baseline in Mesa. Jimmy Eat World opens. 820-7117.

B.B. King: The 72-year-old blues sovereign and his queen, the guitar named Lucille, remain peerless in the realm of stinging R&B; see 'em while you can. Corey Harris opens at 8 p.m. Monday, November 24, at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets are $24.50 and $29.50, available at Gammage and Dillard's (965-3434, 503-5555).

Everclear: A while back, Art Alexakis was at a party swilling the toxic title drink when he had a drunken vision of a group that combined the "fresh-sounding" name of the 190-proof alcohol and its "pure white evil" nature. After sobering up, the vocalist/guitarist founded Everclear, the trio. The Portland, Oregon-based band follows in the hard-pop footsteps of Bob Mould's Sugar, displaying a bit of that act's ability to tickle the eardrum while spanking the brain. Touring behind So Much for the Afterglow, the follow-up to its breakthrough, 1995's Sparkle and Fade, Everclear's scheduled Monday, November 24, at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. Our Lady Peace, and Letters to Cleo share the all-ages bill. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at Ticketmaster. 967-1234, 784-4444.

november 26
Moby: The electronica guru (born Richard Melville Hall, the great-great-grandnephew of Moby Dick author Herman Melville) has drawn spitballs from ravers with recent moves away from his bread-and-butter techno--and he was never our cup of spit, anyway. But, hey, it's Moby and it's Phoenix, and when's the last time those worlds collided? The DJ's scheduled to spin on Wednesday, November 26, at the Icehouse, 429 West Jackson. Juno Reactor (augmented by South African drum group Amampondo) opens. 257-8929.

"Physical Fiction": See Friday.
Valley Song: See Thursday.

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