Calendar for the week

thursday
january 2
Miami Heat: Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, and the rest of the Heat stars take on those wicked New Jersey Devils tonight at 7:30 at the Miami Arena (721 NW First Ave.). As of this writing, the Heat were 21-7 (ranking at the top of their division) and had just defeated cross-state rivals the Orlando Magic by twenty points. When Coach Riley's boys meet all-star guard Robert Pack, center Shawn Bradley, and the rest of the Devils, victory should be assured -- or else: The Devils are 6-18 (ranking next-to-last in their division). Tickets cost $15 and $29. Call 530-4400.

friday
january 3
Gulfstream Horse Racing: Beautiful Gulfstream Park (U.S. 1 between Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Ives Dairy Road, Hallandale) opens its 1997 season of thoroughbred racing today with the $75,000 Hallandale Handicap and the unveiling of two million dollars in improvements, including new simulcasting areas, a new winner's circle, and renovations to its Turf Club. Grandstand admission is free for today, as are parking, a racing program, and a scratch-off prize ticket; attendees can also enjoy price rollbacks on food items. Gates open at 11:00 a.m., with post time for the first race at 1:00 p.m. Races continue daily (except Tuesday) through March 16. Call 931-7223 for details.

Youth Gospel Explosion: Youth choirs from across Dade County join the Miami-Dade Community College North Campus Gospel Choir for this second annual gospel extravaganza tonight at 6:00 at the New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church (1350 NW 95th St.). Admission is free, and donations to benefit the Inner City Youth Center's scholarship fund are welcome. The Center's goal is to keep inner-city students in school and drug-free while providing them with tutoring, job skills, and safe recreational activities. The singing itself will rock you right out of your seat. Call 800-438-1341 for more information.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Edward Albee's Tony and Drama Critics' Circle award-winning blood-sport-within-a-play opens tonight at the Coconut Grove Playhouse (3500 Main Hwy.). Stage and screen star Elizabeth Ashley and acclaimed actor Frank Converse portray Martha and George, a faculty couple at a small New England university, who, during an all-night drinking party, continually aim at one another's jugulars with merciless verbal acuity, much to the chagrin of their guests (but to the shock and delight of the audience). Tickets cost $30 and $35. Performances run at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (except January 14), with a 2:00 matinee on Sunday and on selected afternoons through January 26. Call 442-2662 for scheduling and reservations.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus: The Greatest Show on Earth returns to the Miami Arena (721 NW First Ave.) for a nine-day run. This year's main attraction is the much-ballyhooed Airiana the Human Arrow, a young woman who launches herself into flight from a giant crossbow. Also on the bill are trapeze artists the Flying Vargas and the Flying Tabares families, hair-hanging artist Marguerite Michelle (yes, she is suspended in midair by her hair), British animal trainer Graham Thomas Chipperfield, Swedish equestrian family the Svensons, high-wire walkers the Quiros family of Spain, flying dog team K-9s in Flight, Kenyan strongman Samson Power, Kyrgystan's thundering Eshimbekov horsemen, a troupe of Chinese acrobats, and a bevy of clowns and dancers in the world's largest juggling display. Tickets range in price from $9 to $30. Performances run weeknights at 7:30 p.m. (no show on Monday), Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 3:30, and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 1:00 and 5:30 p.m. through January 12 (plus a 10:30 a.m. show on January 9). Call 530-4400.

saturday
january 4
Mame: Morgan Brittany stars as the exuberant and eccentric Auntie Mame, who teaches her orphaned ten-year-old nephew how to eat from the banquet of life ("Live, live, live!"), in this five-time Tony Award-winning musical (on its 30th anniversary tour), running today at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. at Bailey Concert Hall (3501 SW Davie Rd., Davie). Brittany is perhaps best known for her role as the tempestuous Katherine Wentworth on the Eighties CBS hit series Dallas; since that show ended in 1987, she has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Schwarzenegger's Last Action Hero. Tickets cost $28 and $30. Call 888-475-6884.

Contemporary Abstractions: The Center for Visual Communication (4021 Laguna St., Coral Gables) takes a sweeping survey of contemporary abstract art in its latest exhibition. "Contemporary Abstractions," on view through January 15, features works by Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Elizabeth Murray, Helen Frankenthaler, Claes Oldenburg, Al Held, Richmond Burton, Mary Heilmann, Bill Jensen, Julian Lethbridge, Richard Mangold, and Sean Scully. Highlights include Jasper Johns's colorful Green Angel, Richard Diebenkorn's textural Ochre, and Howard Hodgkin's Gossip, recently featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (It's a good week for exhibits -- see also Tuesday, Wednesday, and "Art," page 55, for information on a Basquiat show.) Admission is free. Center hours are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 446-6811.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus: See Friday.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: See Friday.
Gulfstream Horse Racing: See Friday.

sunday
january 5
The Blue Angel: The Cinema Vortex film series opens the year with the film that made Marlene Dietrich a star. Joseph von Sternberg's 1930 classic, screening today at noon at the Alliance Cinema (927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach), stars Dietrich -- an unknown actress when cast -- as Lola Lola, a promiscuous nightclub singer who sexually humiliates and virtually destroys a prim and vulnerable schoolteacher, played by Emil Jannings, the first actor to win an Academy Award. Highly atmospheric, the film drips with decadence and sexuality. Admission is four dollars. Call 531-8504.

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