Violence and Drama in Belfast

When Irish eyes ain't smilin'

It's been said that all art is political, and it sure is easy to make that assumption when dealing with art that emerges from such violently polarized spots as Northern Ireland. But that's a disservice to Gary Mitchell's award-winning In a Little World of Our Own, a play set in his native Belfast and focused squarely on the effects of living in a militantly divided society. What's unusual about Mitchell is that he creates sympathetic characters in people who have traditionally been portrayed as the enemy -- like Mitchell, the characters are Protestant. Unlike him, they're supporters of the Ulster Defence Association, the Protestant/Loyalist equivalent of the Irish Republican Army.

So the next easy assumptions are that the play attracted attention for its "role-reversal" -- that is, humanizing the demonized UDA -- or for the superstardom of Colin Farrell, who had the lead in the London production. In truth, it's neither -- it's just a compelling story that happens to have that backdrop of Protestant-vs.-Catholic vitriol -- and people remember Farrell more for the Britney thing than for his stage work, anyhow.

The fact is that Little World is a powerful play in which a belligerent man spins a web of lies to protect his mentally challenged brother and himself, and wouldn't you know it, violence begets violence.

The HotHouse Theatre company will perform In a Little World of Our Own at the ArtLoft Theatre, 1529 Washington Avenue, from November 21 to December 7. Tickets are $20. Call 314-241-1517 for tickets, showtimes and details. -- Mark Dischinger

He Still Blows

Jazz harmonica legend Toots Thielemans is the original interpreter of jazz standards for harmonica. Hailing from Brussels, Belgium, Jean "Toots" Thielemans gravitated to guitar performance in post-World War II Europe. After a stint with Benny Goodman, Thielemans be-gan to map out uncharted territory for the harmonica. Even if the name doesn't ring a bell, you have heard his work, which includes harmonica solos in revered, weepy French films such as Manon des Sources and Jean de Florette and the American classic Midnight Cowboy. For his Jazz at the Bistro gig (Wednesday, November 19 through Saturday, November 22, 3536 Washington Avenue, 314-531-1012,, Thielemans re-partners with keyboard virtuoso Kenny Werner. -- Neal Sokol

Bird's Bard

WED 11/19

In "Now's the Time," the first work in K. Curtis Lyle's forthcoming collection Sippin' from the Holy Grail in Downtown Atlantis, the poet writes, "Believers and knowers/NOW/Listen to me/Suck up the mu-sic/NOW...Now's the time of mind-altering joy." Lyle may read from this volume, his tribute to the ecstasies of listening to Charlie Parker's music, at a 4 p.m. performance at the UM-St. Louis Center for the Humanities (room 450 of Lucas Hall, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, free, 314-516-6845). It's not hard to imagine Parker's wild bop style marking time for the crazy rhythms of Lyle's hyperbolic lines. The poet has also collaborated with the late saxophonist Julius Hemphill in fusions of music and verse. -- Byron Kerman

Afro-Cuban Movin'

Boost cold spirits with high-energy, soulful dance as Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE weaves Afro-Caribbean, club, hip-hop and postmodern styles at the Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard), Friday through Sunday, November 21-23. The acclaimed company explores images of the black experience -- or the human experience -- in transition from Africa (which is everyone's birthplace, if you think about it) to the city. One of the three works adds poetry and film to pay tribute to jazz vo-calist/activist Nina Simone, "the little priestess of soul." Washington University's Ovations! Series and Dance St. Louis sponsor the performances, which are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday ($23-$28, 314-534-1111). -- Regina Popper