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Comic Belief 

Alan Oxenhandler's one-night stand

TUES 11/18

There comes a time in every young man's life when he says to himself, "Ah, screw it -- I'm gonna be an entertainer." In Alan Oxenhandler's case, that moment came in his mid-fifties, after he'd spent a great deal of time working piano bars and open-mic nights at local comedy clubs. Technically, Oxenhandler was already a semi-successful performer, but he wanted something more, something grander, something that said to the world, "Alan Oxenhandler is funny as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore." Or something like that.

So Oxenhandler started writing a show for himself, one that utilized his untapped potential as a comic monologist. Not comic monologist like Spalding Gray, but comic monologist like Alan Oxenhandler; that is, actually funny, not reputedly funny. This is a guy who, without provocation from giggling interviewers, breaks into an absolutely dynamite imitation of Neil Diamond singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" -- obviously, there's genius afoot, and it must be shared with the world.

After spending a year scripting his show, the prophetically titled "You Can't Do That in St. Louis," Oxenhandler did what any sensible person would do: Without road-testing his material, he booked the Sheldon for a Tuesday night, hired a band (Wild, Cool and Swingin') and then set about promoting the show himself. DIY meets bravado meets talent in a comedic/musical performance scheduled for one night only, all based on the idea that if he can pull this off in St. Louis, Alan Oxenhandler can pull off anything. "I'm doing this," he says, "so people will say to themselves, 'Why shouldn't I go out and do what I've always dreamed of doing?'" Those who believe in dreams, those who want to laugh and those who just want to get out of the house on a Tuesday night are strongly urged to be at the Sheldon Concert Hall (3648 Washington Avenue, 314-533-9900) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14-$15, but dreams fulfilled are priceless. -- Paul Friswold

Death Becomes Her
Plath Comes Alive!

TUES 11/18

What are female college students hanging on their walls these days? Black-and-white art photos of male models with six-pack abs? Posters of Kate Schrock? There's a fortune waiting to be made by the enterprising soul who mass-markets posters of suicide poster-child Sylvia "Bell Jar" Plath. (They'd look great next to the Ian Curtis posters, anyway.)

In case you hadn't heard, Plath, long a favorite of college women who fancy themselves dark and alienated, is hot right now. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the tortured poet in the recently released Sylvia, and author Kate Moses has turned the last few months of Plath's life into a florid biographical novel. Moses reads from and signs Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue, free, 314-367-6731, -- Byron Kerman

Only the Lonely

Eric Post's Ghost Town: While St. Louis Sleeps photography show at Atomic Cowboy is as dark and lonely as anything written by Raymond Chandler or painted by Edward Hopper. By creeping across the city at night and taking photos of the Planetarium, a wig shop, an old motel, the Forest Park handball courts and dozens of other subjects, Post has a captured a secretive, lyrical world and brought it to light for us diurnal folks. Check out his shot of an abandoned Steinberg Skating Rink -- he manages to make the changing-room space as sacred as a church nave (through November at 7336 Manchester Avenue, 314-645-0608, free, -- Byron Kerman

To-Do List

FRI 11/14

Hong Kong cinema is rich, varied and known primarily for one thing: theatrical slo-mo shots of diving Asian hit men, pistols in each hand, bullets loosed. The Hong Kong gangster flick has become an international cultural mainstay, and director Johnny To is a premier figure in the art form; his films are diverse and numerous, but (of course) he's best known for his gangster flicks. Johnny To speaks about his work at Washington University (Forsyth at Skinker boulevards) at 3 p.m. in room 100 of Brown Hall (it's free) and attends a screening of his PTU at the Hi-Pointe (1005 McCausland Avenue) at 9:30 p.m., too ($8). Call 314-935-8772 for lecture info or 314-367-FEST for film info. -- Mark Dischinger

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