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Event picks for this spectacular week in Cleveland

Thursday | 27

Greg Fitzsimmons at Hilarities

He Loves Hecklers

Hecklers? Bring 'em on. Comic Greg Fitzsimmons doesn't mind. In fact, he actually enjoys their antics. "I love them," he says. "[They're] dynamic and bring out what I consider to be my strengths — improvising and humiliating jackasses!"  Jackasses aside, Fitzsimmons, a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show, digs all forms of audience participation. A self-proclaimed "comic without a hook," he uses free-association to enthrall his audiences. "I demand that the audience not be passive. The energy in the room shifts with each show, and that's what keeps me doing this. It's like riding a bull." Saddle up with Fitzsimmons as he returns to Hilarities for five shows through October 29. Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by phone or online, where you'll also find details on his other upcoming performances. — Logan Boggs

2035 East Fourth St., 216-736-4242, pickwickandfrolic.com.

Family Fun

Candy Crawl in Cleveland Heights

Two family-friendly activities are taking place today on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights: a pumpkin-carving party at the neighborhood Phoenix Coffee and a kids' candy crawl at nearby merchants. (Hey, you gotta get those kids ready for college life sometime.) According to Peggy Spaeth, director of Heights Arts, Phoenix Coffee has been inviting families to carve pumpkins in their coffee shop since 2004. As always, your $10-per-pumpkin donation goes straight to the nonprofit community arts center. In return you get cookies, cider, a candle, and artistic advice and consultation. When you're done sculpting your glowing orange masterpiece, take the costumed kiddies up and down the street for treats from area merchants. (Look for the red balloon outside participating vendors.) Hours for both bashes are 4 to 8 p.m. Reservations for the pumpkin-carving party are required at the telephone number below. — Elaine T. Cicora

2287 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-8227, heightsarts.org.

Love and Charity

Tennis Pros Play for AIDS

Some big names in tennis will be in town today for the WTT Smash Hits, an annual charity match-up co-hosted by Elton John and Billie Jean King. This is the first time in its 19-year history that the event has set down in our fair city, and its goal is raising bucks for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Sir Elton will kick off the 7 p.m. festivities with a celebrity doubles match. Then he and King will captain two teams of tennis celebs, including John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Coco Vandeweghe, Amelie Mauresmo, and Gates Mills native Lauren Davis in a serious round of play. General admission tickets range from $25 to $105 and can be had by phone or online. And big-spending tennis fans should note: a VIP package is being offered that includes court-side seating, a VIP reception, and an auction with the stars; all funds raised from that $1,000 bash go directly to the Cleveland AIDS Taskforce, and those tickets should be ordered at 216-357-2221. — Cicora

500 Lakeside Ave., 866-994-4436, wtt.com.

Friday | 28

Ohio Independent Film Festival

Zombie Dearest at Arts Collinwood

You can party like the undead tonight at Arts Collinwood, starting with a screening of the 2007 black romantic comedy, Zombie Dearest. The award-winning, low-budget flick goes light on the gore, but heavy on the dark humor, as it tells the cautionary tale of Gus, a struggling stand-up comic who pushes his wife too far, then chases her across country to the run-down farmhouse of her childhood. There, Gus finds the one thing he really needs: a zombie who will do anything he says — at least for a while. After the movie, stick around for a party. (Come in your undead finery and get 10 percent off the eats.) The screening is part of the Ohio Independent Film Festival, and it's free. — Cicora

15605 Waterloo Rd., 216-692-9500, artscollinwood.org.

The Palace Theatre

A Wizard Comes to Town

The yellow brick road leads to the Cleve this weekend as the Wizard of Oz blows into the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square for five performances. Based on the 1939 MGM movie classic, as revived by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the show includes all your favorite songs, as well as special effects that promise to deliver witches, flying monkeys, and a replicated tornado. The national touring company enlisted the services of the Chagrin Falls Intermediate School Select Choir to play the munchkins during the Cleveland run: There's a group of kids who are undoubtedly over the rainbow. Today's curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $65 by phone or online, where you will find a complete listing of this weekend's performances. — Cicora

1615 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

playhousesquare.org.

Purr-fect Party

Lounge Kitty at Prosperity Social Club

Cleveland's favorite funny cabaret singer, the ever-glamorous Lounge Kitty, returns tonight to Prosperity Social Club for an outrageous evening of Halloween entertainment. Count on the multi-talented Miss Kitty, once lead singer for the early '90s Cleveland band Swank Motel, to belt out a kitschy repertoire of torch songs, show tunes, and seasonal faves ("Anything having to do with spiders is good") from beneath the shelter of her mile-high hairdo, while simultaneously egging on her audience to questionable acts. Also on the program: a 7-foot-tall Elvira impersonator and a Lounge Kitty look-alike contest with prizes for participants. "The night is going to be a riot," promises Prosperity's owner Bonnie Flinner. "I already have my own Lounge Kitty costume!" The action starts at 10 p.m.; there's no cover charge, but bring some bucks for food and drink. — Cicora

1109 Starkweather, 216-937-1938,

prosperitysocialclub.com.

Saturday | 29

Akron Civic Theatre

A Macabre Masquerade

Akron isn't being ravaged by a fearsome plague, but that doesn't mean you can't party like there's no tomorrow. Just check out tonight's Masque of the Red Death extravaganza at the Akron Civic Theatre. A favorite among Halloween party people, the festivities are loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's tale of decadence and devastation. Attendees are asked to don their most extravagant masquerade-themed attire for an evening of fun, food, games, and paranormal activities, including tarot readings and macabre photography. Music will be provided by the aptly named Cult of the Psychic Fetus, and look for spontaneous eruptions of performance art throughout the hauntingly beautiful theater. The revelry runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. A $50 ticket snags you beer, wine, signature beverages, hors d'oeuvres, and all the entertainment. (A cash bar is also available.) Big spenders can drop $100 and add a spot in the exclusive pre-party, valet parking, and an open bar. Just beware: The event is 21 and over only. — Boggs

182 S. Main St., Akron, 330-253-2488, Reddeathparty.com.

Words & Music

Visions of Poe in Rocky River

There's no American writer so closely associated with the weird as Edgar Allan Poe, and there's no better time to celebrate his stories than in the long, dark nights of late October. Actor and director Tim Tavcar agrees: He'll be giving the master his due at tonight's Poe Spooktacular at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River. Together with actors Michael Mauldin and Christine Sell, Tavcar will present dramatic readings of some of Poe's most memorable poems and tales, each one enhanced by the eerie tones of the church's Holtcamp pipe organ. The insanity begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $20, and less for seniors and students. Get tickets in advance by phone from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at the door beginning at 7 p.m. — Cicora

20401 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River, 216-712-6926, wordstagevt.com.

Shut Up, Donny!

It's a Big Lebowski Bash in Lakewood

Hey, fellow achievers: Wanna feel all warm and dudely inside? Check out Jammy Buggars' Big Lebowski bash tonight starting at 7:30 p.m. On the to-do list: a screening of the 1998 Coen brothers cult classic, a Wii Bowling tournament, and a contest for the best Lebowski-inspired costume. (One word: bathrobes.) There will surely be booze: White Russians, of course — priced at just $4. "We'll also be serving some Russians of our own creation," says manager Jim Sprenger. "One of our new ones is the White Puerto Rican. Basically it's the White Russian, but instead of vodka, we use rum as the base." There's no cover, and contest winners will go home with 50 bucks. The Dude approves. — Matt Stafford

15625 Detroit Ave., Lakewood; 216-767-5922, jammybuggars.com.

Halloween Party

Costume Contest at Sushi Rock

Grown-up Halloween costumes? We've seen 'em all: the sexy vampires, the gruesome zombies, and even the human beer kegs prowling the streets of the Warehouse District as the haunting hour grows near. Our all-time fave has to be the giant penis we saw strolling down West Sixth a few years back — perhaps in search of a giant vagina? Oh, never mind. The point is that Sushi Rock is holding a Halloween party tonight, complete with $6 drink specials and a costume contest offering more than $600 in prizes. If that isn't motivation enough to get creative, we'll eat our Charlie Sheen mask. The party starts at 9 p.m. There's no cover charge, but large groups should make reservations. — Cicora

1276 West Sixth St., 216-623-1212,

sushirockohio.com.

Sunday | 30

Family Fun

Scary Tunes at Severance Hall

While the Cleveland Orchestra is away, the Cleveland Institute of Music gets to play. Today you can hear the CIM Orchestra in a family concert at Severance Hall, complete with magical music and a kids' costume contest. Under the direction of Carl Topilow, the orchestra will be laying down the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, the main theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Saint-Saens' deeply creepy Danse Macabre, among other tunes. The one-hour concert starts at 2 p.m. But get there early: Beginning at 1 p.m., you and the mini-mes can take in an exhibit of student artwork, enjoy a hands-on instrument discovery session, capture some fun photo ops, and enter the costume contest. The festivities are aimed at kids ages 7 and older. Tickets are $15 and $22, available by phone or online. — Cicora

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

clevelandorchestra.com.

Kid Stuff

Trick or Treat Street

The region is rife with R-rated haunted houses, each one trying to outdo the other in blood and gore. Unfortunately, this arms race leaves out the little ones, whose idea of "terror" is still nothing more than seeing Mommy before her morning coffee. Happily, the I-X Center is here with Trick or Treat Street, a non-scary event designed for children ten and younger. Instead of Jason and Freddy, they'll find Scooby and Shaggy. And instead of severed limbs, they'll delight in tons of candy, dished out at 12 themed treat stations. There will also be some mild thrills: a 3-D Mystery Manor designed with kids in mind, some amusement park rides, and live entertainment on two stages. This is the final weekend for the event. Today's hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Discounted tickets are available for $9.99 at most Discount Drug Marts or at the box office for $12. — Stafford

One I-X Center Dr., 216-676-6000,

ixcenter.com.

Monday | 31

Ghosts Galore

Paranormal Pizza Party

Head down to the Perkins Stone Mansion tonight for a laid-back but spooky evening of pizza and paranormal happenings. Attendees are encouraged to wear their favorite frightening apparel, sans masks. After a tour of the circa-1837 mansion's most haunted nooks and crannies — and according to all accounts, there are plenty of them — visitors can unwind with a tasty pizza dinner. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for this ghostly affair cost $35 (and less for Summit County Historical Society members). Make reservations by phone; for more information, check out the website. 16 and over only, please. — Boggs

550 Copley Rd., Akron, 330-535-1120, summithistory.org.

Farm Aid

Boorito Night at Chipotle

Plagued by climate change, soaring costs, and intense competition, the American family farmer is in frightening straits. That's why Chipotle chose that theme for its second-annual Boorito night: a tasty blend of bargains for you, and cash support for the family farm. Show up at your neighborhood Chipotle tonight in a farm-related costume and score a burrito, taco, salad, or bowl for just $2. Proceeds — up to $1 million — go to benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation and Farm Aid. It all goes down from 6 p.m. till closing time And just in case you're tempted to toss on grandpa's feed-store cap and call it a costume, get this: The best-dressed partyers could win up to $2,500 in cash prizes. Find more — including contest rules and a short film considering the hardships of farming — on the website. — Cicora

Chipotle.com/boorito.

Tuesday | 01

Fit for Foodies

Restaurant Week Returns

Today is the first day of Restaurant Week, the annual showcase of independently owned and operated eateries hosted by Cleveland Independents. More than 50 member restaurants are taking part this year, most of them offering three-course prix fixe dinners for $30. Among them: Chinato, Grovewood Tavern, Johnny Mango, Fire Food & Drink, Flying Fig, and Great Lakes Brewing Company. Marlin Kaplan, CI prez and chef-owner of Dragonfly, says the yearly event has proven big with Cleveland-area diners. "More than any other promotion, it inspires them to head to independent restaurants," he says. Restaurant Week continues through November 13. Find a complete list of participating restaurants and sample menus on the CI website. And don't forget to make reservations: Seats usually go fast. — Cicora

clevelandindependents.com.

Wednesday | 02

KSU Museum

On the Home Front

We don't immediately start thinking "fashion" when we think about the Civil War. (Actually, we don't even think about the Civil War all that often.) Still, clothing and the accoutrements of domestic life can be a revealing lens through which to view its history. That's the vision behind On the Home Front, a recently opened exhibit at the Kent State University Museum. Focused on the daily life of American civilians during the war, the show includes women's and children's clothing, shoes, bonnets, underwear, and jewelry, supplemented by period photos, decorative arts, and women's magazines. Besides the corsets and crinolines, one of the exhibit's highlights is a quilt crafted from scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln's dresses, made by slave-turned-dressmaker Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Like the quilt, most of the pieces are drawn from the museum's own world-class collections; other items are on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Kent State University Libraries. The exhibit continues through August 26, 2012. Today's hours are 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and admission is $5. — Cicora

515 Hilltop Dr., Kent, 330-672-3450,

kent.edu/museum.

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