Anything from the inventive and audacious folks at Hand2Mouth provides reason for excitement. This original work finds the troupe digging into sports culture and coaches' motivational speeches. In a fitting touch, it'll be performed in a North Portland gym. Peninsula Park Community Center, 700 N Rosa Parks Way, 235-5284. Jan. 22-Feb. 16.
Imago dipped into Harold Pinter with December's excellent The Lover, and now Jerry Mouawad will direct the tragicomedy that established the iconic dramatist's reputation. It's a psychological study exploring the power dynamics between two brothers and a homeless vagabond. Local theater legend Allen Nause plays the tramp. Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 231-9581. Feb. 27-March 23.
pool (no water)
In Mark Ravenhill's 2006 play, a group of young artists gathers at the posh digs of a friend who's made it big. When a terrible accident lands the host in the hospital, the others try to turn her suffering into art. An ambitious and somewhat experimental piece of movement-theater, we're intrigued to see how Theatre Vertigo makes it work in Shoebox's tiny black-box theater. Shoebox Theater, 2110 SE 10th Ave., 306-0870. April 11-May 19.
Profile Theatre's season of Sam Shepard includes the playwright's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, a blend of horror and comedy that takes aim at the corrosive myth of the American dream. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 242-0080. May 29-June 15.
So maybe Tracy Morgan isn't a standup comic as much as a somewhat crazy person who possibly thought he was filming a documentary when appearing on 30 Rock, but that just means he's more naturally hilarious than many of his peers. The last time Morgan was here, he played the Newmark, so this three-night stand at Helium definitely qualifies as "intimate." We're pretty sure he's learned to avoid jokes about stabbing his hypothetically gay son, so it should be all good. Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. Jan. 17-19.
Mike Birbiglia spins some of the best stories in the business, tales that transcend comedy to hit a place of cringingly awkward but lovely tenderness. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 248-4335. Jan. 24.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
Dance presenter White Bird's big get this season is Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. China's first contemporary dance company—and the most acclaimed in Asia—makes its Portland debut with Songs of the Wanderers. The work evokes a spiritual pilgrimage, one that's brought to life with 3½ tons of luminous, golden grains of rice that rain on the dancers. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 245-1600. March 4.
New Expressive Works
Studio 2's residency program returns with a new batch of performances from four dancers. Luke Gutgsell has perhaps the most impressive résumé, having performed at the Sydney Opera House and the Kennedy Center. He's joined by choreographers Lucy Yim and Eric Nordstrom, as well as by Yulia Arakelyan, whose Wobbly Theatre is a butoh-inspired company that incorporates movement from people with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs. Studio 2 at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St., 449-6160. March 28-30.
Oregon Ballet Theatre
In this Celebrate program, dancer Alison Roper takes her final bows after 18 seasons with the company, but the show is about OBT's future as well. Artistic director Kevin Irving has lined up the company premiere of Helen Pickett's vibrant Petal, as well as a revival of audience favorite The Lost Dance by Matjash Mrozewski. Roper will dance a pas de deux in another company premiere, Cor Perdut by Nacho Duato, and Irving says he has other surprises in store. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 222-5538. April 17-26.