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Get Out!

Event picks for this warm week in Cleveland

Thursday | 02

Signs of Spring

Baseball & Beer in Ohio City

Is Groundhog Day the new Mardi Gras? It could be, if you take John Smatana's advice. The owner of Ohio City's Johnnyville Slugger, maker of fine, custom-crafted baseball bats, says his plans to make today a major party day began with a chance to host a live ESPN Radio broadcast. "I'm calling it the first-annual Stanley Coveleski Groundhog Day Celebration," says Smatana of his in-store party, in honor of the winning Cleveland Indians pitcher from the 1920s. "Stanley always said 'Baseball gives me sunshine,' by which he was referring to the fact that he spent six years working in coal mines for five cents an hour before becoming a Hall of Famer. In these days of overpaid, pompous players, that's something to remember." Smatana hopes you'll do just that today between 4 and 6 p.m. Besides enjoying the live broadcast with Mark "Munch" Bishop, you can ogle Smatana's handiwork and dig into a salsa spread from next-door's Orale Kitchen. Afterward, Smatana suggests you stay in the 'hood for a little Groundhog Day partying. "It's not just about me," he says. "I'd like to see everybody come down to Ohio City today and have a little fun at our restaurants and bars." And if that includes raising a toast or two to Stanley, Smatana won't mind a bit. — Cicora

1822 West 25th St., 216-470-4838, johnnyvilleslugger.com.

Agatha Christie Revisited

Murder & Mayhem in Akron

She never heard of cell phones, iPods, or cloud computing. But Agatha Christie — "The Queen of Crime" — remains a timely draw for theatergoers, especially in Akron. "For some reason, we have a huge, devoted audience for Agatha Christie mysteries," says Nancy Cates, co-artistic director of Coach House Theatre. "We perform her plays regularly due to ongoing demand, and they nearly always sell out." Christie fans will be up to their eyeballs in bodies this weekend, as the venerable community theater — one of the nation's oldest — continues its production of And Then There Were None. Widely considered Christie's most hair-raising mystery, the plot involves ten characters trapped on an isolated island who die, one by one, after revealing their dark secrets. Cates directs the production, and if her name sounds familiar, it should: She is also co-artistic director of the acclaimed Ohio Shakespeare Festival, which performs each summer at Akron's Stan Hywet Hall. Together with husband and local actor Terry Burgler, she took up the Coach House reins in 2008; the two of them have been working hard to raise the theater's profile ever since, turning out five shows per season in genres ranging from comedies and classics to contemporary works. Performances of the Christie play continue through February 19. Tonight's curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students. Get yours by phone or online. — Cicoraa

732 West Exchange St., Akron,

330-434-7741, coachhousetheatre.com.

Friday | 03

At Case Western Reserve

Get Into the Swing

For those of us who missed the music and dancing of the '40s the first time around, tonight's appearance by Seattle-based Glenn Crytzer and His Syncopators is a chance to try out the good ol' days in style. The big band — one of the nation's premier providers of authentic vintage swing — kicks off the annual SparX event, a weekend-long workshop for dancers of all levels, sponsored by the Case Western Reserve University Swing Club. This marks the fifth year for SparX, and organizers are expecting fans to come from as far away as Philadelphia for the dancing, lessons, and related activities. Tonight's kickoff with Crytzer & Co. happens from 9 p.m. to midnight in the Adelbert Gym. General admission is $15 at the door or $10 for students. For details — including the weekend's full schedule — check out the website below. — James Lewis

2128 Adelbert Rd., cwruswing.com.

At Baldwin-Wallace

A Free Foreign Film Fest

Tonight marks the launch of Baldwin-Wallace's third-annual International Film Series: nine subtitled flicks in six languages, shown over the course of two weekends. Organized by students from several campus groups, and supported by the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department, the fest features highly acclaimed films from around the globe. Most are recent releases, says faculty advisor Nadia Sahely. "In fact, to the best of our knowledge, at least three of the films are Cleveland premiers." Tonight's cultural exchange kicks off at 5 p.m. with an opening reception in Marting Hall, where you can expect refreshments and conversation with fellow foreign film freaks — sometimes in a foreign language! At 6, the French flick Le Havre screens. That's followed at 8 by the Cleveland premiere of China's Gang de Qin. Screenings continue on Saturday and Sunday with German, Arabic, and French films. Four additional movies screen on February 10 and 11. You'll find a complete rundown at the website below. The movies and the associated receptions are free and open to the public. — Cicora

50 Seminary St., Berea, 440-826-2244, bw.edu/news/calendars/events/

2011-winter-film-series.

Saturday | 04

The Great Big Home & Garden Show:

In Search of Spring

With three stages, 19 themed gardens, and more than 650 exhibitors on the floor, it's easy to while away hours inside the Great Big Home & Garden Show. Turns out, lots of people do. "The average visitor spends about six hours," says show manager Rosanna Hrabnicky. "It's the kind of event where people stay all day — and then come back again!" How else would you find time to check out the 2,400-square-foot Idea Home, visit the two energy-efficient log cabins, and peek inside the Celebrity Designer Rooms? And don't forget the gardening seminars, the cooking demos, and appearances by HGTV celebs Chip Wade (Curb Appeal: The Block, and Designed to Sell), Bryan Baeumler (Disaster DIY), and Matt Foxx (Room by Room and Around the House With Matt and Shari). Where to head first? Hrabnicky was happy to provide a little guidance. "Start your visit by strolling through the amazing gardens," she suggests. "Each one of them is inspired by a classic TV show, including Beverly Hillbillies, The Flintstones, and The Twilight Zone. There's even one based on Sanford & Son. I'm pretty excited to see what that one is!" It's all happening today through February 12 at the I-X Center. Adult admission is $14 at the box office or $11 at Home Depot locations or online. Today's hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check out the website for a complete schedule of events. — Cicora

1 I-X Center Dr., 216-676-6000, greatbighomeandgarden.com.

Kathleen Madigan at Playhouse Square

Funny Lady

She doesn't scream, smash watermelons, or wear wacky outfits. "I am pretty much what you see on stage," Kathleen Madigan says from her Los Angeles home. "I'm not playing a character. I am just me." But while the top-rated comedienne may look like a well-groomed soccer mom, her wit is pointed, sharp, and sly. On recently being ranked one of the planet's funniest women: "That could be an overstatement: There's a billion Chinese women we haven't heard from yet." On what men are thinking: "Most of the time, they're not. Or if they are, they're just thinking about the beer in their hand and wishing it was colder." And on last month's New Hampshire primary: "Four people voted for Michele Bachmann. 'What do you mean you voted for Michele Bachmann? She wasn't even in the race!' These are the people I want to go out drinking with!" Madigan's current tour brings her to the Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square tonight for one 8 p.m. show. While she denies she's an "observational" comic, you can expect to hear her thoughts on family, politics, and religion. "It's always the same three or four topics," says the Missouri native. "There may not be much hope for the future, but the least we can do is laugh." Tickets are $10 to $28; get them by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora

1511 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000, playhousesquare.org.

Fresh Air

Ride a Ski Bike if You Dare

Saddle up this morning for a wintry bike ride through the Flats, brought to you by the hardy members of the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op. Why, you ask? Because it's fun, says OCBC director Jim Sheehan. "Part of our mission is to get people to ride bikes. To that end, we do what we can to provide encouragement and camaraderie." Plus, there's that whole seasonal connection. "In the tradition of Groundhog Day, we'll be looking for signs of spring. But we're also doing it as a way to celebrate winter." Topping the celebration: a stop at Clark Field for sledding and cocoa, and a chance to try out a legendary-in-some-circles ski bike — which, as you might suspect, is a bike with a ski attached to the front wheel. "It's actually better for riding on hard pack than it is for going down hills," advises Sheehan, who cops to helping invent the thing. "Man, it really goes!" The ride — the ninth-annual Marmots' Meander — begins at 11 a.m.; sporting sorts are advised to arrive at the bike co-op sometime after 10 a.m. Riders have a choice of routes and distances, but be sure to bring a helmet. Afterward, everyone is invited back to the co-op for a potluck. To register, visit the website where you'll find lots of interesting stuff, including a chili recipe. It's all free and open to the public. — Cicora

1840 Columbus Rd., 216-830-2667, ohiocitycycles.org.

The Art of Caring

Benefit Show and Sale

at Arts Collinwood

While artists are often painted as cranky loners, the truth is that the local art community is close-knit and compassionate. The most recent evidence comes in tonight's Metamorphosis, a one-night art show, sale, and benefit for local artist John L. Nagy. A recent Cleveland State grad, Nagy supports his family as a house painter and home repairman; a recent fall from a ladder shattered his ankles, and left him unemployed and uninsured. "Honestly, it's hard to articulate what makes John so amazing," says fellow artist and event organizer Josh Usmani. "He may not be the most famous artist in Cleveland, but he's one of the most sincere, altruistic, helpful, modest, and kind people I've ever met. I think the fact that there are more than 50 local artists taking part in this show says a lot about his character." Among those donating works for tonight's sale at the Arts Collinwood gallery: CHOD Kimes, Douglas Max Utter, and Dana Depew, to name a few. Nagy's own works will be on display in the café. The sale will take place as a silent auction; opening bids are set at $20. Bidding runs from 6 to 11 p.m., and all proceeds go to benefit the Nagy family. — Cicora

15605 Waterloo Rd., 216-696-9500, facebook.com/events/230989676976913.

Neo Noir in Lakewood

Movie Night Gets Dark

If the cheap thrills and special effects of Hollywood don't dazzle you like they used to, Lakewood Public Library offers a way to shrug off (or dive into) your woes with their Film Neo Noir series. Tonight, local film expert Terry Meehan hosts the retro classic The Man Who Wasn't There (2001). Directed by the Coen brothers, this black-and-white film set in the '40s drops viewers into the prime of film noir time, with dark characters (Billy Bob Thornton, James Gandolfini, and Scarlett Johansson), dark sets, and a dark story involving all sorts of seediness. Thornton plays a barber who wants to get into dry cleaning — which turns into a story of adultery, blackmail, deception, and death. The Man boasts snappy dialogue and a stylized look that enters it into a series of "good films that people like to watch," according to Meehan. The free screening begins at 6 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium and includes an introduction to the film and actors, and tips on what to watch for. A discussion session follows. — Lewis

15425 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-226-8275, lkwdpl.org

Absurdly Funny Stuff

Spewing Silliness at Reddstone

Fresh jokes are funny. Motionless monotone delivery generally is not. Tonight, Nick Vatterott offers a cure for the common comedian with an act full of wild antics he describes as "high-energy, completely absurd, and improvisational at points." Fueled by experience with Chicago's Second City, Vatterott challenges the definition of stand-up with a free-flowing form that often defies logic. At its heart, though, it's "just about being as silly as possible." Vatterott has appeared at comedy fests all over the country, as well as on Conan O'Brien and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Tonight, he appears at Reddstone. The late show is sold out, but tickets most likely still remain for Vatterott's 7 p.m. performance. They're $10 online or $15 at the door. To get a preview of Vatterott's act, go to oodlesofpun.com. — Lewis

1261 West 76th St., 216-651-6969, chucklefck.com.

Sunday | 05

Super Bowl Viewing Party

Big Game, Big Bash

Tonight's Super Bowl pits the New England Patriots against the New York Giants, two franchises with no shortage of recent success and no shortage of utterly insufferable fans. So yeah, not a lot of great underdog story lines here. But that's no excuse to blow off the gaudiest day of television this side of a Kardashians marathon. The place to be for this year's festivities is LiquidSixx, the new hot spot in the Warehouse District, where your pals at Scene will be throwing back cheap beers and plowing through priced-to-move chili, burgers, and wings. Bonus round: Book your party of 10 or more in advance and be greeted by a free pizza and 12-pack of Bud Light. The action starts at 6 p.m., and — given the way Super Bowl telecasts are milked for every ad dollar on Madison Avenue — the fun should last till at least Tuesday or so. — Erich Burnett

1212 West Sixth St., 216-479-7717 (216-849-3093 for group reservations).

Rise Above It Benefit

Super Bowl, Super Cause

As if to prove that even beer-soaked shindigs need not lack social import, along comes today's ninth-annual Super Bowl Benefit at the Blind Pig. Sponsored by the non-profit group Rise Above It, the party goes well beyond just tossing back brewskis and watching big guys in helmets clobber each other — not that there's anything wrong with that. But it also includes diversions like games, a $500 drawing, and door prizes — with 100 percent of the proceeds going to benefit adolescents and young adults with cancer. Your raffle ticket ($20 online, $25 at the door) also gains you access to a bountiful buffet, loaded with brats, burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. As far as the beer, it's a cash bar with a portion of the proceeds going to the cause. The action begins at 3 p.m. and continues till well after some millionaire athlete wins a trip to Disney World. Get your tickets and find out more at the website below. — Cicora

1228 West Sixth St., raibenefit.org/category/events-news.

Monday | 06

Happy Dragon Roll

Last Chance to Celebrate

By now you've hopefully made the rounds at our AsiaTown restaurants: slurping up lucky noodles, dabbling in dim sum, or catching a lion dance in honor of the Lunar New Year. But there's still time for one final hurrah: a stop at multi-nationally flavored Table 45 in the InterContinental Hotel. A long-time interpreter of Asian cuisine, chef-restaurateur Zack Bruell has put together a fun assortment of food and drink specials to mark the Year of the Dragon, which began January 23. Today is your final day to try cocktails like the Dragon Fire (vodka, spicy cinnamon schnapps, and pomegranate syrup), and dishes like Hong Kong-style noodles with barbecued pork. The star of the show, though, is the Dragon Roll — plush snow crab and crisp cucumber wrapped in unagi and avocado, then festively arranged to look kinda like the namesake critter, complete with a wasabi head. You can score one today for lunch or dinner. Make reservations by phone or online, where you'll also find a complete menu. — Cicora

9801 Carnegie Ave., 216-707-4045, tbl45.com.

Tuesday | 07

Meet Your Match

One Night, Three Minutes, Thirty Dates

The odds are in your favor tonight at D'Vine Wine Bar, where you can check out as many as 30 would-be heart throbs for three minutes at a time. "In the ten years since we started, we've had 178 marriages that we know of," says Progressive Daters' founder and owner Tracy Corpus. "That works out to more than one a month!" A former Akronite turned Clevelander, Corpus says the three-minute format is key: "The face-to-face aspect lets you talk about the important things up front — smoking, former marriages, interests and activities — and let's you get an idea right away if this is your kind of person or not." Controlled registration means men and women are in equal supply; professions typically range from doctors and lawyers to delivery-truck drivers. "Even if you don't find the love of your life," Corpus says, "you'll probably find someone to hang out with." Tonight's gathering is aimed at the 35- to 49-year-old crowd. Seekers in other age ranges will be accommodated in events on February 8, 12, 13, and 14. Cost is $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Register online at the website below. — Cicora

836 West St. Clair Ave., 216-241-8463, progressivedaters.com.

Wednesday | 08

At the Art Museum

Afro-Cuban Jazz Man Comes to Town

Since the 1970s, Chucho Valdes has set the standard for Afro-Cuban jazz, a form that combines traditional rhythms with bebop, rock, and classical jazz. "All Cuban musicians have been influenced by me," the multiple-award-winning pianist and composer tells us through a translator. "They all know they have to pass through my school." If that sounds immodest, the days of downplaying his influence are probably behind Valdes, a guy whom jazz wonks routinely describe with words like "master," "legend," and "virtuoso." You can hear for yourself what elicits such praise tonight at the Cleveland Museum of Art, when Valdes takes the Gartner Auditorium stage with his current band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. His visit is part of a U.S. tour in support of his newest CD, Chucho's Steps, which pays tribute to influences like John Coltrane, Joe Zawinul, and the entire city of New Orleans. You might think it's all old hat for Valdes, who has recorded more than 80 CDs in his illustrious career and performed with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Wynton Marsalis. But he denies it. "I'm still learning, exploring, and finding excitement," he tells us. "After all, the music never ends." Tonight's show begins at 7:30 p.m. and is part of the museum's Viva & Gala series. General admission starts at $40. Get your tickets online, by phone, or at the museum box office. — Cicora

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350, clevelandart.org/vivagala.

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