Feeling guilty about their shallow, career-driven lives, the four protagonists in Richard Greenberg's romantic comedy Eastern Standard invite a waitress and a bag lady to spend the summer with them in the Hamptons -- a sweet, yet still shallow, gesture. And that's the point. The four main characters make up two couples -- one straight, one gay. One of the gay men has AIDS, which means that this convenient little circle allows Greenberg to fit AIDS, homelessness, and yuppie ennui into a single storyline. None of it sounds romantic or funny, but Greenberg's knack for quick, punchy dialogue keeps things moving. And although the play premiered in 1988, it serves as a good reflection of today's messed-up world. The Fort Lauderdale Players conclude their run of Standard this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. today through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. The show is being staged at the Broward County Main Library Auditorium, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $16. Call 954-761-5374.
Christopher Janney is a "sound artist," someone who noodles around with nonmusical sounds and turns them into "art." For example, during a brainstorming session at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he attached a transmitter to someone's chest and amplified the heart's lub-dub-thump. Voila -- art. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov will dance with such a setup during "HeartBeat: mb" when his White Oak Dance Project performs tonight in Fort Lauderdale. Created by Janney, the piece includes music from Samuel Barber's String Quartet. Also on the bill is choreographer Dana Reitz's "Unspoken Territory," a solo piece that becomes a duet when changes in lighting get into the act. Several ensemble dances will also be presented. Tonight's performance starts at 8 p.m. in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets prices range from $30 to $65. Call 954-462-0222. The company will perform again at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-358-5885.
Long before bird-named rock bands like the Black Crowes and Counting Crows came along, the Mighty Sparrow was making his own brand of popular music. Known as the "calypso king of the world," and born Slinger Francisco in Grenada before moving to Trinidad, the Mighty Sparrow has produced more than 60 recordings of upbeat island music. Now age 62, his album titles -- but not the music -- have mellowed. Back in 1979, he put out one called Pussy Cat Party. "We're past that stage," he said in a recent interview. "It was an attempt to be funny. Boy, times do change." While his music may have a limited audience, the Mighty Sparrow has stuck to his guns. He does appreciate, however, newer styles of music, like rap and hip-hop. "I can't do it very well," he has said. "But I listen to it." Rap isn't on tap, but plenty of other genres will rub elbows during today's Pan African Jam at Mills Pond Park (2201 Powerline Rd., Fort Lauderdale). Top Jamaican reggae band Culture and groups from Haiti, Brazil, and Africa will play at the festival, taking place from 3 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $3 to $5 ($3 for parking). Call 954-766-6699.
Whatever your Sunday wind-down routine, Acoustic Alchemy has just the soundtrack for it. When English guitarists Nick Webb and Greg Carmichael began putting out their mellow vibe in the late '80s, the music was given the "adult-contemporary" stamp. It's since been called New Age, contemporary instrumental, crossover jazz, and contemporary fusion. Categories aside, one thing is clear: the duo -- Webb, the jazz specialist, and Carmichael, the classicist -- concocted a low-energy stew of ethereal instrumentals. Webb, unfortunately, passed away in February, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer and just before completion of the duo's new album. Working on the album, aptly titled Positive Thinking, served as mental therapy for Webb, who was undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Just as his legacy lives on, so does Acoustic Alchemy, which, with guitarist John Parsons sitting in for Webb, plays tonight at 8 p.m. at Carefree Theatre, 2000 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $22. Call 561-833-7305.
Exactly what cavemen were thinking when they scrawled bison and horses on cave walls, no one knows for certain. Were they paying homage to the strength and nobility of their four-legged friends, or just doing some interior decorating? Whatever the answer, they kicked off a still-popular trend: animals in art. With its flowing mane and well-defined muscles, a cast-bronze Hittite horse sculpture from the Tenth Century B.C. captures the animal's grace and power. As does Deborah Butterfield's sculpture Palomino, from 1981, which is made of plant leaves attached to a frame. Both pieces are featured in "Animal As Muse," an exhibit on view through August 23 at the Norton Museum of Art (1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach). The show traces the evolution of animal forms in art from ancient to modern times, and includes works by Goya, Matisse, and Chagall, among others. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2 to $5. Call 561-832-5194.
Visitors to Flamingo Gardens (3750 Flamingo Rd., Davie) have high citrus prices to thank for the slice of subtropical jungle in the midst of South Florida's urban landscape. After a Florida vacation in 1925, Michigan residents Floyd and Jane Wray were so enamored with the weather that they moved on down. What they didn't like were the orange shortages and high citrus prices during the summer months. So Floyd planted 40 acres of Lue Gim Gong orange trees, a variety that bears its fruit in summer, and called it Flamingo Groves. Today more than 60 orange varieties grow there, and, as dictated in Jane's will, the property was turned over to a foundation with the stipulation that it not be developed. The preserve's lush botanical gardens, orange groves, and nature center -- which breeds and releases native birds -- can be toured on foot or by tram. Guided tours of the Wray's 1934 Art Deco home are also available. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $10. Call 954-473-2955.
Natives deep in the jungles of Laos stared wide-eyed when Bill Hutchins paddled by on the Mekong River. "Judging from the reception from villagers, I don't think they ever saw a kayak in their life," explains the environmental educator from West Palm Beach. Of course they hadn't: The international group of naturalists with which Hutchins toured last year was the first ever allowed unrestricted access to the Southeast Asian country's many rivers. During the month-long trip, Hutchins captured the vast diversity of Laos on film. "There are places that look like South Beach in Vientiane, the capital," he explains of the Art Deco influence left over from years of French rule. In contrast he has shots of Buddhist temples found in the jungle. Hutchins, age 43, says his teaching job gives him two months off every year for such trips, and he's been making them for twenty years. He'll share his Laos pics during the slide lecture "Laos: Land of Extremes" at 7 p.m. tonight. The event takes place at the Dagger Wing Nature Center at South County Regional Park, one-half mile west of State Road 7 off Yamato Road, Boca Raton. Admission is $3. Call 561-488-9953.