Best Of This Week

December 23, 2007

HOLIDAY

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY GIVING TREE / / 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 31. Towson Town Center, 825 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson. 410-494-8800 or townsontowncenter.com.

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As long as you're in the mall and in a gift-giving mood, stop by the Giving Tree, a fund-raiser for Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, which helps underprivileged families get housing by building affordable houses. The houses are then sold to families that qualify for no-interest loans at no profit to the organization. Gift tags with a price of $10 to $100 hang from a tree; patrons buy the tags and their donation is given to the organization.

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[KARLAYNE PARKER]

TELEVISION

ELMO'S COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS / / 7 p.m. today. WMAR-TV (Channel 2).

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ABC has been scoring record ratings this holiday season with Christmas classics starring Charlie Brown and the Grinch.

Now comes Elmo (the creation of Baltimore native Kevin Clash), with an all-star voice cast that includes Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx and Ben Stiller. Even though the program is airing on ABC, it is produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit production company that makes Sesame Street. So, Elmo's Christmas Countdown is not only good fun -- it's a good show for kids to watch.

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[DAVID ZURAWIK]

FILM

THE 39 STEPS / / Noon, Saturday. The Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. $6. 410-727-FILM or thecharles.com.

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Alfred Hitchcock wasn't merely the Master of Suspense -- he was the founder of suspense, and he used the thriller form to push the boundaries of emotional expressiveness on film. The Charles kicks off an extraordinary 25-film tribute to this one-of-a-kind director with The 39 Steps (1935), his first international hit, starring Robert Donat as an innocent man who finds himself accused of murder and roped into espionage. The gimmick of genius is that he ends up shackled to a woman (Madeleine Carroll) who thinks he's risky or deranged. Hitchcock proves himself not just the canniest but the sexiest of directors, both in the push-pull tension he conjures between Donat and Carroll and in the erotic poignancy he brews between Donat and the great Peggy Aschcroft as the frustrated wife of a puritanical crofter. It's just a terrific film.

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[MICHAEL SRAGOW]

THEATER

JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE / / 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Through Jan. 13. No show Dec. 25. Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. $10-$60. 410-332-0033 or centerstage.org.

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Of the many great plays written by August Wilson, his favorite was Joe Turner, which is set in 1911 in a Pittsburgh rooming house. This lush, lyrical work tells the tale of Herald Loomis, who is searching for his wife after he was wrongfully imprisoned for seven years on a chain gang.

Wilson's characters are haunting and his prose is fierce and poetic. The story intriguingly mixes earthy humor with occasional flights into the miraculous.

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[MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY]

ART

ARTWORKERS / / 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The Gallery at Villa Julie College, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson. 410-486-7000 or vjc.edu.

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In their day jobs as curators and gallerists, Gary Kachadourian, Peter Dubeau, Jan Razauskas and Gerald Ross have helped make Baltimore one of the region's liveliest art scenes. But when they go home, they make their own art. Their sparkling show at Villa Julie College presents paintings, drawings, sculpture and installation art by four of the hardest-working artist-professionals around.

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[GLENN MCNATT]

CLASSICAL

MONUMENT PIANO TRIO / / 7 p.m. today. An die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. $13 and $16. 410-385-2638 or andiemusiklive.com.

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For anyone seeking a little break from carols and holiday pop tunes, consider some chamber music played by three of Baltimore's accomplished musicians -- violinist Igor Yuzefovich, assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski, the BSO's assistant principal cellist; and pianist and composer Michael Sheppard. Together, they form the Monument Piano Trio, an ensemble that can be counted on to create interesting mixes of repertoire and to perform it all with flair.

On today's program, part of the Trio's annual concert series at An die Musik, the players will offer works by a colorful assortment of 20th century composers -- a Romanian, George Enescu; a Russian, Rodion Shchedrin; two Europeans who became leading Hollywood film scorers, Austrian-born Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Hungarian-born, Miklos Rozsa; and an Argentinian celebrated for his sophisticated use of the tango, Astor Piazzolla.

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[TIM SMITH]

POP MUSIC

ALY & AJ / / Doors open noon Friday. Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. $25-$37.50. 410-244-1131 or tickets.ramsheadlive.com.

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"Potential Breakup Song" starlets Aly and AJ Michalka head to Rams Head Live this week for a matinee show. Following their debut album Into the Rush, the singer-songwriter teen-pop sibling duo released Insomniatic earlier this year. The sisters can be seen in MTV's Super Sweet 16: The Movie and have had multiple songs featured on Disney movie soundtracks.

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[AARON CHESTER]

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