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Event picks for the week, because we really do care

Thursday | 17

John Pinette

Eats Up Hilarities

Plump, cherubic Boston funny man John Pinette doesn't strike us as a guy who has missed a lot of meals. And sure enough, his shtick, including a 2007 Comedy Central special I'm Starvin' and his hit CD Show Me the Buffet, is all about the yummies — and his search to find some. A 20-year veteran of the comedy circuit, Pinette has forged a career that's included movies, television, and even Broadway, where he chewed the scenery as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. His current Still Hungry tour brings him to Hilarities for six shows, today through Sunday. Tickets start at $30. To order, call 216-736-4242 or go to pickwickandfrolic.com. Hilarities Fourth Street Theatre is at 2035 East 4th St. downtown. — Niehaus

Friday | 18

Music @ the Art Museum

Iva Bittová and the Calder Quartet

Avant-garde singer and violinist Iva Bittová started her career as an actress, but turned to music in the early '80s. The Czech Republic native's dramatic background informs her music in unexpected ways: Among other things, Bittová proves that there's more than one way to play a violin, and her unorthodox vocal style ranges from sublimely pretty to downright unsettling. Tonight, Bittová takes the stage with the Calder Quartet at the Cleveland Museum of Art, as part of this year's VIVA! & Gala performing arts series. Bittová will perform solo and with the equally inventive Calder Quartet, a group whose prestigious and eclectic pedigree includes both serving as the Graduate Resident String Quartet at Juilliard and collaborating with Vampire Weekend and Andrew W.K. The performance starts at 7:30 in the Gartner Auditorium. Tickets are $26 to $30, with discounts for students and CMA members. For more information or tickets, call 216-421-7350 or visit clevelandart.org. The Cleveland Museum of Art is at 11150 East Blvd. in University Circle.— Bill Delaney

Cleveland Pops

Tango Time at Severance Hall

If you haven't caught the bug yet, here's another opportunity to expose yourself to tango: Conductor Carl Topilow leads the Cleveland Pops Orchestra in a concert of La Musica de Argentina tonight. Aiding the orchestra in their explorations will be Cleveland's Oblivion Project, formed to explore the sultry, sexy music of legendary Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. Dancers Rebecca Sweet and Heriberto Perez will expand the theme with some sultry, sexy tangoing to go with. Incidentally, North America's current tango obsession can be traced back to 1983, when the dance show Tango Argentino opened in Paris. It moved to Broadway in 1985; and by 1991, tango festivals were being held from coast to coast. The craze continues tonight at 8 p.m. at Severance Hall. Tickets are $28 to $72. Purchase them by phone at 216-231-1111 or online at clevelandpops.com. — Elaine T. Cicora

On Screen

Hendrix Homage Hits the Rock Hall

More than 30 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix's performances with Band of Gypsys remain the stuff of legend. You'll never catch them in concert. But tonight you can catch the next-best thing: a screening of the 1999 flick Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys, featuring the group's only known concert footage. Besides the music — including performances of "Foxy Lady" and "Machine Gun" — the film includes Slash, Lenny Kravitz, and Vernon Reid speaking about the impact of Hendrix's revolutionary blend of rock and funk on the contemporary music scene. Insiders Don Cornelius and Frankie Crocker will outline the hurdles Hendrix faced for acceptance on radio, television, and with his emerging black audience. The 83-minute film begins at 7 p.m. in the Rock Hall's state-of-the-art Foster Theater. Admission is free, but reservations are required at 216-515-8426 or by e-mail at education@rockhall.org. The flick is part of a series of music films marking Black History Month at the Rock Hall; others are scheduled for February 23 and 25. For details, go to rockhall.com. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is at 1100 Rock and Roll Blvd. — Cicora

Saturday | 19

Funny Stuff

Big Dog Theater Opens at the Centrum

Actor-comedian Don Mitri is breathing some fresh air into Coventry's comedy scene with tonight's grand opening of Big Dog Theater. "It's completely different than Pickwick or the Impov," Mitri says. "We'll have sketch comedy, stand-up, musical improv ... We're offering East Siders a little bit of everything." Ensconced inside the neighborhood's historic Centrum Theater, alongside the recently opened restaurant Fracas, Big Dog also doubles as a training ground for young comics. Cleveland comics Jeff Blanchard and Quinn Patterson are on the bill for tonight's opening bash, and the performance will be taped for a future DVD release. A pre-show party at City & East, across the hall from the theater, starts at 7 p.m., Jeff and Quinn take the stage at 8:30, and a meet-and-greet will get under way at Fracas following the show. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door — or go all in for the $35 dinner show package. Visit bigdogtheater.com or call 216-472-3636 for tickets or more information. Big Dog Theater is at 2781 Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights. — Delaney

Things That Go Boom

Monster Jam Crashes the Q

After 10 years behind the wheel of a 2,000-horsepower monster truck, Carl Van Horn figures this weekend's shows at Quicken Loans Arena will be a walk in the park. "I don't get scared," says Van Horn, who just happens to drive a rig called Grave Digger. "But sometimes when I'm trying to get big air, some 25 feet off the ground, that's when I might get a little worried." As for us, we aren't a bit concerned, knowing that the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam will deliver a weekend's worth of huge jumps, crushed opponents, and cheering crowds: In other words, everything we've been missing from the Cavs! You can catch Grave Digger, along with Captain's Curse, Stone Crusher, and all the other monster trucks today at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; a third show is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission ranges from $20 to $52, and kids get in for $10. For tickets or more information, visit theqarena.com or call 888-894-9424. — Delaney

Laugh It Up

Royal Comedy Tour at Playhouse Square

Before embarking on a comedy career that has spanned 20 years, Sommore was a substitute teacher in Trenton, New Jersey. Then and now, the self-styled Queen of Comedy doesn't apologize for who she is or what she does. "I am an adult woman doing adult comedy," she says. "I believe in looking like a lady and sounding like one of the boys." So expect an uncensored laugh riot tonight when Sommore leads her boys — including fellow comics D.L. Hughley (Original Kings of Comedy), Bruce Bruce (host of BET's Comic View), and Damon Williams — to the State Theatre for the Royal Comedy Tour. The sounding off begins tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $42.50 to $51.50 and can be ordered by phone at 216-241-6000 or online at playhousesquare.org. The State Theatre is at 1519 Euclid Ave. at Playhouse Square. — Shanette Buford

Sunday | 20

Peking Acrobats:

They'll Tumble For Ya

As far back as 200 B.C., Chinese acrobats were astounding audiences with their feats of balance, strength, and gravity defiance. In the process, they launched a folk-art tradition that has been passed down through generations. No wonder the touring troupe of Peking Acrobats, landing today at Playhouse Square, delivers timeless family entertainment — complete with juggling, gymnastics, and musical accompaniment from traditional Chinese instruments. Among their death-defying feats, the highly trained athletes will walk on high wires, create soaring human pyramids, and squeeze through spaces that would give a house cat fits. The result is an awesome spectacle of human physical prowess that has amazed worldwide audiences with its pageantry and color. Catch them today at 3 p.m. at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are $10 to $35 and can be nabbed online at playhousesquare.org or by calling 216-241-6000. The Palace Theatre is at 1615 Euclid Ave. — Chrissy Niehaus

Steven Wright

This Comic Walks Into the Ohio Theatre ...

It's easier being Steven Wright than you might imagine, mainly because the comedian's surreal persona and deadpan delivery are definitely not an act. "I didn't make this up," says the veteran funny man. "When I first went onstage, I was frightened, and whatever monotone I had anyway was exaggerated because I was nervous. I'm not scared anymore, but that persona isn't something that's ever going to change, because it's me." That's good news for fans who have followed Wright's 32-year career: an odd-duck odyssey that has earned him two Grammy nominations, an Oscar, and the number 23 spot on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest comedians of all time. It also has led some to credit him with founding the alt-comedy movement with observations like this one: "The sign in the restaurant said 'Breakfast any time.' So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance." Wright serves it up tonight at 7 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $25 and $35, and can be reserved by phone at 216-241-6000 or online at playhousesquare.com. — Cicora

Monday | 21

Fresh Air

Chute the Presidents

Nothing says "Presidents' Day" quite like plunging down a 700-foot refrigerated chute on the back of a wooden plank. To facilitate your celebrations, Cleveland Metroparks is offering special hours today at the Chalet toboggan chutes in Strongsville. From noon to 5 p.m., you can zoom down a 70-foot vertical drop at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour — fast enough to freeze spit, it turns out. All-day tickets are $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 11 and younger; scaredy cats can cop a single ride for just $3. The Chalet also offers two fireplaces and an indoor snack bar for taking the chill off between rides. Snow or no, the chutes will continue to operate Thursdays through Sundays through March 6. Find them at 16200 Valley Parkway in the Mill Stream Run Reservation, just off I-71 and the Ohio Turnpike. Call 440-572-9990 for more information. — Cicora

Foodie Fun

Ditch the Brown-BagLunch for a Day

Downtown Restaurant Week returns today, with the promise of three-course, $30 dinners from some of downtown's best restaurants. More than 40 eateries are participating in the event's fourth annual edition, including high-profile spots like Lola, Greenhouse Tavern, Chinato, and Crop Bistro. This year also marks a welcome new twist, designed with downtown office workers in mind: $15 lunch options from many of the participating restaurants that will surely beat the pants off your usual lukewarm yogurt. At Blue Point Grille, for instance, lunch includes a house salad or roasted tomato bisque, and a choice of grilled salmon with rice pilaf, or penne pasta with roast chicken and lobster cream. Greenhouse Tavern's menu is pretty tempting too, with soup or salad, your choice of entrée, and yummy cookies for dessert. Restaurant Week continues through Sunday, February 27, with $2 parking deals and other special events, including a Happy Hour chocolate fountain at the Chocolate Bar. Find complete details and menus at downtowncleveland.com. — Cicora

Tuesday | 22

Battle of the Grapes

Piedmont vs. Tuscany at Michaelangelo's

Sangiovese or Nebbiolo? Chianti or Barolo? Decide for yourself tonight at Michaelangelo's, as two Italian winemakers — one from Tuscany and one from Piedmont — offer an intimate, educational exploration of wines from these two outstanding regions. "We are really privileged to have two such notable authorities on hand," says general manager Jon Fronck. "Both men are nice guys and really good speakers." That includes Luciano Tagliano, from Montaribaldi vineyards in Piedmont, and Massimo Cragnotti from Corte alla Flora vineyards in Tuscany. Together, they will be leading a sampling of 10 to 12 representative wines, all of which will be available for purchase at evening's end at state minimum prices. It all begins at 6 p.m. at the Zagat-rated restaurant at 2198 Murray Hill Rd. in Little Italy. Cost is $25 per person and includes meats, cheeses, and light appetizers from executive chef Michael Annandono's kitchen. To reserve a spot, call 216-721-0300 or go to mangelos.com. — Cicora

Wednesday | 23

On Screen

Don't Quit the Day Job

So you wanna be a comic? Before you turn in your time card, check out Punching the Clown, a wry, satiric, and ultimately redemptive tale of a traveling funny man, making its area debut tonight at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Co-written by Gregori Viens and Henry Phillips (who also plays the semi-autobiographical lead character), the indie flick has garnered fistfuls of kudos since its 2009 release, including top-pick status at Slam Dance and the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival. Its satiric take on the inherent conflict between artistic integrity and commercial success has also found followers among the pros, including Sarah Silverman ("the best movie about comedy I've seen so far") and The Onion's A.V. Club ("totally primed for a fervent cult following"). Aspiring stand-ups and the people who love 'em can learn all about the trials and tribulations of takin' it on the road tonight at 5:30 or 7:15 p.m. in the museum's Morley Lecture Hall. Tix are $9 at the door, with discounts for seniors, students, and members. For more info, call 216-421-7350 or go to clevelandart.org. The Cleveland Museum of Art is at 11150 East Blvd. in University Circle. — Terry Jozwiak

Emerging Chefs

Church Chow at Gordon Square

What do you call an exclusive four-course dinner, created by a spirited young chef, and offered up in a former church sanctuary? If you are event organizer Michael DeAloia, you call it Sacri-licious: a blessed commingling of the carnal and the divine. Tonight's dinner is the fourth in a series of out-of-the-box events presented by Emerging Chefs, a local biz devoted to promoting the region's young talent. This evening's annointed one is chef Jeff Fisher, top toque at Touch Supper Club and a guy who isn't above taking a few risks. Among tonight's provocations, for instance, you'll find lamb carpaccio, St. Germain-cured salmon tartare, Asian-braised pork belly with forbidden rice, and for dessert: beet foam with angel's and devil's food cakes. "I cannot begin to say how excited I am to be a part of this," Fisher offers. It all takes place in a former Romanian Orthodox Church at 6415 Detroit Ave., in Gordon Square. After dinner, guests can continue their culinary communion with a stop at Touch (2710 Lorain Ave.), where the after-party begins at 10 p.m. Cost for the entire evening is $55 per person. Go to emergingchefs4.eventbrite.com for ticket purchases or more information. — Cicora

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