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Greg Owen at the Improv
He's Working It Out
What brings a "theater" comic like Gary Owen — a screen actor, a regular on Tyler Perry's House of Payne, and the guy Ebony magazine recently proclaimed Black America's Favorite White Comic — to the Cleveland Improv? "The check," he tells us by phone, followed by a polite chuckle. "Really, I've been on tour so long now (with Shaquille O'Neal's All-Star Comedy Jam) that I just needed a break. People don't realize it, but comedy clubs are like gyms for standups: They're where we can work things out, try out new bits — and that's pretty exciting!" That explains the "why" of Owen's six shows at the Flats comedy club this weekend. As for the "what": The Cincinnati resident says he's working out new material that comes straight from his personal life. "I'm a white guy married to a black woman, with kids who look nothing like me. Believe me, that provides plenty of material." Still, Owen claims his comedy isn't about race. "It's more a cultural thing — like a Jewish guy married to a Catholic woman. I guess I just don't conform to the usual perceptions: I don't know why racial things are often taboo. I'm just talking about my life and what I go through as a married man. That's about 70 percent of my material; the rest is sports and current events." Owen's True Story DVD drops on April 8. He also has a new Showtime comedy special premiering in early May. Tonight, though, he's at the Improv at 7:30 p.m. Additional shows go down on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets are $17 to $20; a dinner & show package costs $39. Reserve your spot by phone, online, or at the Improv box office. — Elaine T. Cicora
1148 Main Ave., 216-696-4677, clevelandimprov.com. — Elaine T. Cicora
Big Bargains in Solon
Whether it's a thrift store, a yard sale, or a flea market, nothing gets the heart pumping quite like pawing through other people's castoffs. You can snag your fair share of shopping CPR — not to mention killer bargains on used clothes, shoes, jewelry, and handbags — today through Tuesday at the Budget Bin, a twice-a-year consignment sale sponsored by the Solon P.T.A. "Basically, it's a huge, indoor, week-long garage sale," says co-chair Suzi Castiglione. That means nearly 400 consigners hauling in everything from prom dresses to household appliances. Among past treasures, Castiglione recalls the year when several pieces of Arhaus furniture showed up. "Another year, we had antique photo developing equipment!" Today's shopping hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; tomorrow, it's 10 a.m. to 7. If you want to trade selection for price, Saturday and Monday are "bonus" days, with 30 percent off all purchases. And on the final day — Tuesday — whatever you can stuff in one of the PTA's bags will cost just $5. All monies go to provide scholarships to Solon High School seniors; leftovers go to local charities. It's happening at Parkside Elementary School Gymnasium. — Cicora
6845 SOM Center Rd., Solon, freewebs.com/budgetbin.
Fun, Free & "Really, Really Good"
In the years since its 2004 founding, CityMusic Cleveland has introduced thousands of new fans to the joys of classical music. In the process, the non-profit professional chamber orchestra has come up with some unorthodox incentives: free childcare, fun intermission receptions, and a no-charge policy at all performances. But mainly, people show up for one reason: The music is great. "It's not just a gig to us," says executive director Eugenia Strauss. "It's important that what we put on the stage is really, really good." According to Strauss, there are two more reasons why the series will rock: guest Sean Newhouse, an award-winning young conductor Strauss calls "a rising star"; and Dylana Jenson, the internationally acclaimed violinist who will be performing Brahms' formidable Violin Concerto. "She's an inspiration — and a very strong woman," Strauss says of Jenson, who famously made a comeback after her patron withdrew use of her cherished violin. The series kicks off tonight at 7:30 at St. Colman Church on the near West Side. On Friday, the orchestra moves to Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Saturday finds them at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village, and Sunday they're at the Elyria United Methodist Church. No reservations or tickets are required. — Cicora
2027 West 65th St., 216-321-8273, citymusiccleveland.org.