The obligatory holiday productions have taken their final curtain calls, and Portland theaters can return to what they do best: distracting us from our city's slobbery weather. The following productions may not warm your heart—there are a few brutes in here—but they might just help you make it to June.
I Love to Eat, Portland Center Stage, Jan. 8-Feb. 3
James Beard was Portland's Julia Child, and this one-man show by James Still invites audiences into the kitchen of the eccentric gourmand. Donning Beard's toque is Rob Nagle, a Los Angeles actor known for both powerful and irreverent performances.
Fertile Ground Festival, Jan. 24-Feb. 3
A 10-day spree of new works. Look for an extended preview Jan. 24.
The Velvet Sky, Theatre Vertigo, Feb. 15-March 16
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's phantasmagorical fairy tale should be a good fit for Theatre Vertigo, which does well colliding the volatile and the comic. The play follows a sleepless mother who is haunted by a malevolent Sandman as she searches for her missing son.
Three Days of Rain, Defunkt Theatre, Feb. 15-March 23
Richard Greenberg's Pulitzer-nominated drama, about a troubled son investigating the life of his father, is structurally bifurcated and emotionally complex. Provided director Tom Moorman doesn't cast Julia Roberts—she starred in a lackluster 2006 Broadway production—expect a strong, sharp showing from Defunkt.
Blood Knot, Profile Theatre, Feb. 27-March 17
As much as I'm looking forward to the directorial debut of Adriana Baer, Profile's new artistic director (she helms The Road to Mecca, opening Jan. 9), it's Blood Knot that sparks greater excitement. The 1961 play set the foundation for Athol Fugard's career, and it's an unblinking and impassioned look at apartheid in South Africa.
In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Triangle Productions, March 7-31
Before Hysteria winked at Victorian-era gynecological therapy, Sarah Ruhl did it more successfully. Triangle can be campy, so here's hoping the company shows restraint with Ruhl's smart, compassionate play.
The Invisible Hand, Artists Repertory Theatre, March 26-April 28
An Adam Smith reference might not get anyone's blood racing, but Ayad Akhtar's play mixes market trading with Islamic terrorism to produce a savvy and politically astute thriller.
The Left Hand of Darkness, Portland Playhouse, May 2-June 2
Hands down Portland's most exciting artistic convergence in recent memory: Ambitious and energetic Portland Playhouse teams up with ever-imaginative Hand2Mouth to adapt Ursula K. Le Guin's landmark sci-fi novel, which mines themes of gender and sexual politics.
Crooked, CoHo Productions, May 16-June 8
After this fall's affecting Body Awareness, CoHo seems well-placed for another small play that still prods big themes. Catherine Trieschmann's drama digs into domestic dynamics and the discomfort of adolescence.
A Bright New Boise, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, May 31-June 23
Samuel D. Hunter's Obie-winning dark comedy punches at the bleaker sides of faith and small-town life. This is Hunter's first play to be staged locally, and the all-star cast—Andy Lee-Hillstrom, Jacklyn Maddux, Chris Murray, Kerry Ryan and Tim True—promises a wallop.