ART: MIAMI UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM Even though the exhibition runs until May 10, get yourself out to the explosive installations, photographs and prints by Sally Heller in Bloom N' Doom at the Miami University Art Museum. Fans of the zany post-painting projects by Miami's own Tracy Featherstone should gear up for the adventure of Heller's work which similarly charges through kitsch, craft and nostalgia to mount skeletal wonderlands of materials. Heller, it seems, takes her media as often from construction sites and dainty domestic situations as the more recognizable "fine art" sources. Referencing trees and what Heller calls "growth systems," her installations have an environmentalist, critical subtext but with a helter-skelter overgrowth of cultural references and content-loaded ready-mades implicated into her microcosms. The accompanying photographs reexamine the materials and compositions of the installations, warping them into something ever more wild. (Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- Matt Morris
ONSTAGE: MISS LONELYHEARTS Operas tend to be about big emotions and big heartbreak. That's kind of what newspaper advice columns are preoccupied with, too. So perhaps the new opera Miss Lonelyhearts makes sense in that way. But don't think this is some frothy or foolish story. Composer Lowell Liebermann and poet J. D. McClatchy used as their inspiration Nathaniel West's darkly comic Depression Era novella of the same title, a work driven by the fracturing of the American dream. "Miss L" is a male journalist who blithely takes on an advice column. As he's bombarded with insoluble questions full of sadness and desperation, his moral core is completely shaken. Few operas take on a tough theme like that, but Miss Lonelyhearts meets it head on with powerful music and complex characters. The opera, suggested for mature audiences, gets the third production of its world premiere this week at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. (It's been previously staged by casts at two other highly respected music schools, the University of Southern California and New York's Juilliard School.) Tonight's 8 p.m. performance is a fully staged preview; it's also onstage at Corbett Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. (Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- Rick Pender
ONSTAGE: TOPDOG/UNDERDOG continues at Know Theatre. See Rick Pender's review here.
ART: CARL SOLWAY GALLERY shows off Pat Steir: Paintings and Prints. See Jane Durrell's review here.
COMEDY: RICK GUTIERREZ It's not hard to figure out how Rick Gutierrez developed his style once you find out his favorite sitcom of all time is M*A*S*H. "Best-written show ever -- that and Archie Bunker. Everything else is crap after that." He adds, "My humor is quick and fast. That's why people like me. I talk about life, I talk about what's going on for real." That includes everything from the war in Iraq to foreign-based customer service.
"We're such a good country," he says. "We give other countries our jobs. The other day (my credit card company) called. 'Sir, how come you haven't paid your bill?' 'Where are you calling from?' I asked. 'India.' 'Come collect, bitch!" Gutierrez performs Thursday-Sunday at Go Bananas in Montgomery. $8-$12. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- P.F. Wilson
LITERARY: ALAN DREW We live a rapidly evolving era when age-old traditions are being influenced -- some would say annihilated -- by globalization. The rising tension between Western and Eastern culture, modernity and deep-rooted history, secularism and religion, are tearing at the fabric of modern society. The dilemma is at the heart of our troubling times. Local author Alan Drew knows this as well as anyone. The California native taught English literature for three years at a private high school in Istanbul, arriving just days before the 1999 Marmara earthquake. Drew witnessed the tensions first-hand, and did so amid the backdrop of immense tragedy: The quake killed 17,000 people in 45 seconds. Now the author has channeled the experience into his debut novel, Gardens of Water, the story of two families -- one American, one Kurdish -- in an earthquake-ravaged town outside Istanbul. Drew describes his tale as a "loss of culture, loss of family, loss of a way of life, loss of religion, loss of safety, loss of trust and how under certain circumstances loss can breed anger." That's a lot of loss. The question now is how we deal with it. Drew discusses this and more at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at 7 p.m. Thursday. 513-396-8960. -- Jason Gargano
ART: ARTONMONY GALLERY So you know about First Fridays in Covington and Final Fridays in Over-the-Rhine, but what about the rest of the month? Artonmony Gallery now has a second Friday exhibition schedule, with monthly shows of both local and national artists. The gallery, which makes prints, reproductions and frames, recently opened its doors in its new home in Rookwood Commons, so you can now art hop while you shop. Visual Awakenings is a group exhibition of drawings, paintings, mixed-media works, collages, sculptures and glass objects by artists such as V. Mann, Kurt Grannan, Marc Lincewicz, Wynter Whiteside, Lisa Paytes, Michael Rozell, Seth Scantlen and others. The opening is 6-9 p.m. Friday at 2723 Edmondson Road, Norwood. 513-281-ARTS. -- Elizabeth Wu
MUSIC: HERCULANEUM One of Chicago's finest young Jazz ensembles returns to the Cincinnati area this Saturday for a free show at The Comet in Northside. With members who have been entrenched in the Windy City's experimental and Indie music scenes, Herculaneum began in 2002, reportedly as an outlet for drummer/songwriter Dylan Ryan's more avant-garde compositions. The music is masterful, but it has gotten more in tune with the adventurousness of '60s Jazz pioneers, based on tight interplay, intuitive writing and improv and some flawless playing. This gives the music a mix of familiarity and unpredictability, something for both vintage Jazz fans and open-minded music lovers searching for something challenging but not antagonistic. Listening to some of the newer tracks from the group's as-yet-unreleased next album, they seem to have become even more skillful on all fronts and the record sounds like it could have been made (and turned some heads) in the late '50s or early '60s Jazz world. They're still not quite "traditionalists," but to call this anything but great Jazz music (Post Rock it ain't) would be misleading. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- Mike Breen
MUSIC: SUPERSUCKERS bring their Rockabilly mayhem to the Mad Hatter. See Sound Advice preview here.
MUSIC: BUCKRA celebrates the release of their latest disc at Dirty Jack's. See Locals Only interview here.
SPORTS: XAVIER BASKETBALL The Musketeers have quietly put together another great season, and even though much of Cincinnati ignores the little Jesuit school's basketball players, the Muskies are primed to finish the regular season with one of their best records ever. Xavier was 18-4 heading into Thursday's contest with St. Louis and will host Saint Joseph's Saturday in one of its four remaining home games. Ranked No. 15 in both national polls, the blue team is looking ahead to NCAA tournament seeding while our local red team just tries to get into the N.I.T. tournament. Xavier will wear throwback uniforms Saturday and give away Drew Lavender growth charts so fans can laugh at how small he is. Tip-off is noon Sunday. $16-$21. (Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- Danny Cross
EVENTS: MODERN-DAY SLAVERY SERIES OF EVENTS Slavery ended a few years ago, right? Even though the plantation is gone, slavery is alive, well and growing in the United States and around the world. Hard to believe, but it's true. To bring attention to this problem, the students of the Wyoming school district are hosting a series of events beginning with a vigil for the victims of slavery in Ohio at 7 p.m. Sunday at Wyoming Fountain Park. Kevin Bales, an international authority on the subject, will talk about modern-day slavery at the Wyoming High School auditorium (106 Pendery Ave.) at 7 p.m. Monday with a Fair Trade fair to follow. The free event is hosted in conjunction with the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 513-333-7573. -- Margo Pierce
MUSIC: JASON ISBELL stops at the Southgate House. See Sound Advice preview here.
EVENTS: CINCINNATI WORLD CINEMA The local film group continues its unique programming with an Oscar Preview Party at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Cincinnati Art Museum's Fath Auditorium. We're told the party will include "predictions, film clips, picks and pans." In that spirit, here's a few predictions of our own: The Coen brothers No Country for Old Men will win Best Picture, Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoe-in for Best Actor and the awards show will be just as painfully long as ever. (The $20 tickets benefit CWC and others.) Elsewhere, CWC will screen John Turturro's criminally overlooked Romance & Cigarettes, at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13. An unlikely yet strangely engrossing mix of absurdist comedy, drama and whacked-out musical, Romance & Cigarettes features James Gandolfini as an Engelbert Humperdinck-singing, blue-collar Queens dude who's furious wife (Susan Sarandon) has found a poem he wrote about his mistress' (Kate Winslet, pictured above) private parts. A host of Turturro acting buddies show up (including a hilarious Steve Buscemi, Elaine Stritch, Mary-Louise Parker, Eddie Izzard, Mandy Moore and Christopher Walken) in this gonzo, dialogue-happy ode to the messiness of love and sex. $9, $7 for students and CAM members. (Buy tickets and get details here.) -- Jason Gargano