OPENINGS & PREVIEWS
You have to play the game to stay alive in L.A. writer Nastaran Ahmadi's play about an Iranian-American video game tester who builds a post-apocalypic Iranian game-scape. As she gets more and more involved in her alternate reality, the coder finds her own life turning into a disaster zone. Reed's Black Box Theatre, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 6-14. $7.
It's theatrical blasphemy to put Samuel Beckett and "tropical island" in the same sentence, not to mention lumping them together in a multimedia ghost story at Headwaters Theatre. But that's exactly what producers Michael Gust and Rachel Heichen are doing, and it doesn't sound terrible. In the style of Beckett's classics, the show follows a lost soul stewing through existential mindfucks. When Jack Mann finds himself in a hotel with no reservation and no idea of how he got there, his search for answers leads him on a Wonderland-style misadventure. A cast of odd characters who speak in tongues keep trying to tell Jack something, but the only thing he starts to understand is that it's all a supernatural déjà vu trip. If that's not Beckett-y enough, Jack then time-travels back to reflect on his life and destiny. With live music and a cast mostly trained by L.A. theater legend Scott Kelman, the pieces are all there, Headwaters has just three nights to put it together right. The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #9, 289-3499. 7 pm Friday-Sunday, Nov. 6-8. $15.
Offending the Audience
For it's third show in a year-long installment of works by Austria's avant-garde theater master Peter Handke, Portland's multidisciplinary Liminal group is reinterpreting his 1965 "anti-theater" play. The "gesamtkunstwerk" started as Handke's attempt to explode the fourth wall and engage his audience. Lumped in with Peter Stein and Samuel Beckett for his theatrical experiments that played with language—or eschewed it altogether—Handke is known for breaking rules. This production, in English and German, promises the same: prepare for nude interpretive dances by the ghosts of Edward Snowden and Rosa Parks, says the program. Believe that or not, you can expect an electronic soundtrack, multimedia components and plenty of offensive ideas. Action/Adventure Theatre, 1050 SE Clinton St., liminalgroup.org, 567-8309. 7:30 pm Friday-Sunday and 2:30 pm Sunday, through Nov. 22. $10-$25.
The Other Woman
Across the country, 30 stages are simultaneously putting on readings of the lady-things play The Other Woman to raise awareness for domestic violence and start conversations about infidelity. Bag and Baggage's five resident actresses—taking a break from the company's usually lighthearted lineup—will take the stage to benefit a local domestic violence awareness nonprofit. The show is based off an anthology of the same name that tells five very different women's stories about the repercussions of cheating or beating in relationships. The stories come from authors like New York Times bestseller Caroline Leavitt and children's author Maxinne Rhea Leighton. Bag and Baggage, 350 E Main St., Hillsboro, 345-9590. 7:30 pm Monday, Nov. 9. $25.
Orlando was born male in Elizabethan England, but over his 300 year-long life, he switches genders and becomes female. Naturally, transformation and questions of personal identity take center stage, which is even less surprising given the show's source material. Sarah Ruhl, the New York-based MacArthur winner whose Passion Play just finished its multi-theater run in Portland, adapted Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel for the stage. Portland Center Stage and Playwrights West mainstay Matthew B. Zrebski directs the gender-swapping show. Warning, or promise, there will be nudity. Alder Stage, 1516 SW Alder St., 242-0080. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 18 and 3 pm Sunday, through Nov 22. $15-$32.
You either think this is a misplaced food review of Portland's new sushi spot, or your face just contracted involuntarily in confusion. Stan Sakai's beloved comic book about a rabbit named Usagi who's on a mission to become Yojimbo (samurai status) attained cult status over the past 30 years. It follows the hero's journey as Usagi leaves his mom to valiantly pursue his destiny in a 16th century Japan filled with feudal lords and groundlings trying to please their ancestors. There's a love story in there too, whether because he's a rabbit or because this is a Bildungsroman. Adapted by Dark Horse Comics founder Stewart Melton, this show has fight scenes, dramatic masks and make-up, and will include a book signing with Sakai on opening night to celebrate Usagi's 30 year anniversary. If you're of the former camp, consider yourself more pop culture literate now; If you're of the second, you know where you'll be next Friday, if only to see how the hell you put a comic book samurai rabbit on stage. PCC Sylvania Performing Arts Center, 12000 SW 49th Ave., 722-4323. 7 pm Friday and 2 pm Saturday, Nov. 6-7, and 11 am Thursday and 7 pm Friday-Saturday, Nov. 12-14. $10.
Raunchy, swinging piano battles and hedonistic Cotton Club acts inspired by the life of jazz piano legend Fats Waller make this Tony Award-winning musical a nostalgic trip from the Harlem Renaissance through to World War II. Portland Center Stage got permission to amp up the play from what it was on Broadway and in the West End, augmenting the cast with Third Rail, Artists Repertory and Portland Playhouse veterans, plus a few London, New Orleans and New York talents like Andre Ward—who did Rock of Ages on Broadway—and David Jennings—who starred in the Broadway version with American Idol's Ruben Studdard. That's a lot of name-dropping, even for PCS. But it's worth a mention that this may be the largest black cast we'll see on any stage this year. Though early critics decried the show's lack of dialogue, in a play that once starred the Pointer Sisters crooning songs like "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness" and "How Ya Baby" that's probably an insubstantial fault. Gerding Theater at the Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., 445-3700. 7:30 Tuesday-Friday, noon Thursday, 2 pm and 7:30 pm Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 30-Nov. 29. $30-$75. 12+.
Gemma Whelan (Corrib Theatre) directs the always-stunning Vana O'Brien in Artist Repertory's Halloween offering. New York Times columnist John Biguenet's one-woman thriller follows an Appalachian witch through her very long life of lost loves. The heartbroken witch eventually turns bitch and exacts her long-awaited revenge on everyone who's wronged her. Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 241-1278. 7:30 pm Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am Wednesday, Nov. 11 and 2 pm Sunday. Through Nov. 22. $48.
Carrie the Musical
Carrie White still gets her bath in this remake of the classic Halloween fodder that notoriously flopped on Broadway in 1988. The multi-million dollar flop lasted just five performances during its original Broadway run, but now it's became such a legendary emblem of theatrical folly that a new generation felt obliged to raise the overly-maligned project from the grave. The original was penned by Lawrence Cohen (screenwriter for the famous film) and scored by Michael Gore & Dean Pitchford (the platinum Fame and Footloose songwriting team). This Stumptown Stages production follows a triumphant Los Angeles revival earlier this year that won fans over with a streamlined script, inventive staging and soft rock balladry that creepily fuels the story of a bullied teen girl's telekinetic revenge. JAY HORTON. Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway, 381-8686. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday,. Through Nov. 8. $25-$40.
To launch its 16th season of groundbreaking dramatic works, Defunkt Theatre and veteran director Jon Kretzu present the Portland premiere of Mark Bartlett's acclaimed relationship portrait Cock. Winner of the 2010 Olivier Award following its initial run at London's Royal Court, the searing examination of conflicted sexuality breathes fresh life to the age-old romantic triangle through the story of a gay man unexpectedly fallen into heterosexual love yet unwilling to leave his boyfriend. JAY HORTON. Defunkt Theatre, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 481-2960. 7:30 pm Thursday-Sunday, through Nov. 15. $10-$25.
The Drunken City
Three young, suburbanite girlfriends all got engaged. Cue mayhem. By the time the first woman has her bachelorette party—a debauched affair in an unnamed city that looks a lot like Vegas—everything is falling apart. Chief amongst the foibles? Bride-to-be Marnie (Holly Wigmore) isn't so sure that she wants to get married after all. She manifests her reservations by making out with Frank (Murri Lazaroff-Babin), a banker from their suburb that she runs into while out on the town. As the bacchanal progresses, the city takes on an evil sentience, serving in the script like a character itself. But it's not a believable source of chaos. This is 2015; young suburbanites are moving into inner cities that outpace the 'burbs in affluence and amenities. Even Cleveland has a gourmet grilled cheese spot with craft brews on tap. Even in this show of minimal frills (someone holds up a card that says "three weeks later" to show the passage of time), the setting seems unrealistically stripped. As for the humans, playing drunk requires a deceptive subtlety. Overdo it and you end up with a college skit put on by RAs during orientation week. Fortunately, the cast has this subtlety, elucidating the troubles at the bottom of a couple glasses of vino—or in this case, tequila shots—with humor. JAMES HELMSWORTH. Shoebox Theater, 2110 SE 10th Ave., 306-0870. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday. Through Nov. 21. $10-$20.
Manic and stunning, Equus fulfills our Fall Arts Guide prediction that theater would get grim. Inspired by the true English case of 17-year-old Alan Strang (Phillip Berns) blinding six horses with a metal spike, Peter Shaffer's notorious play imagines the boy's therapy with children's psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Todd Van Voris) and unpacks his crime in a series of nightmarish flashbacks. Post5 power couple and Ty and Cassandra Boice co-direct, and here their penchant for showmanship is at its best. They set a stark stage—just a black box and a swivel chair—and populate it with twisted personalities. The show's only soundtrack is a haunting hum that sounds like a yogic refrigerator saying "om." It crescendos and then disappears, leaving an eerie silence for dramatic affect. But Post5's cast doesn't need the help. Seven of the 10 actors are newcomers, which could've made tackling this hefty play a hot mess. But Van Voris's (The Librarians, Grimm) Doctor Dysart is perfect. Conflicted but resolute, he shakes and spits with visceral passion during his monologues. Berns, the one original company member on stage, is painfully well-cast. Gaunt and pink-eyed, he glares silently and then explodes in manic episodes of ecstasy or rage that stay unpredictable for the entire, long show. And it is a long two plus hours to spend on a psychological roller coaster in this renovated Sellwood church. But for a true Halloween haunting, skip the new Guillermo del Toro flick or Fright Town—one look from Berns will fill your quota. ENID SPITZ. Post5 Theatre, 1666 SE Lambert St., 971-258-8584. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Sundays. Through Nov. 14. $15-20.
Dirty secrets and evil plots surface at a rural fishing lodge in Georgia thanks to a newcomer named Charlie and his debilitating fear of social situations. Regular guest "Froggy" LaSeur, a Brit who lends his demolition expertise at a local army base, introduces his shy friend to the lodge denizens as a foreigner who speaks no English. Suddenly, the Georgians are spilling their darkest thoughts in front of Charlie, and a madcap satire ensues. When in doubt, Hillsboro: redneck jokes. No show Oct. 31. HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington St., Hillsboro, 693-7815. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. Through Nov. 8. $15.
Junie B. Jones: The Musical
Ticket to Read gives kids from low-income schools free trips to the theater and a book to take home. Everyone gets the joy of first grade reincarnated as a musical. As if the plight of Barbara Park's precocious heroine wasn't already enough—she needs glasses and the lunch lady is her only friend—Oregon Children's Theatre and Music Theatre International add song and dance. Newark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. 2 and 5 pm Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, 11 am shows on Sunday Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 and 22. Through Nov. 22. $18-$32.
La Muerte Baila
An original baile folklórico production, this global premiere is the first act of what looks to be a stellar 32nd Teatro Milagro season. Honoring Día de los Muertos with a bilingual fable about a spirit's refusal to visit the land of the living that's written and directed by celebrated Brooklyn dramatist Rebecca Martinez, La Muerta Baila will stage a fanciful travelogue with sly wit and traditionalist passion. JAY HORTON. Milagro Theater, 525 SE Stark St., 236-7253. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Sundays, Oct. 15-Nov. 8. $25.
Macbeth, A Dark Retelling
"Trigger warning for domestic abuse" warns the top of the playbill for this modern reinterpretation of Shakespeare's shortest play. Lady Macbeth steals the spotlight in the feminist-tinged production, where she's played as the unfortunate victim of domestic violence and the patriarchal society that supports it. Turning to violence out of desperation, she inspires her husband (Macbeth with a gas mask and a police baton) to commit treason and eventually causes a national bloodbath. This is the first production from Polymath Art Theatre, the newly-formed fringe project of local thespians Kate Belden and Katie Nichols. Largely a labor of love that's still trying to find it's footings, this is the type of undertaking that involves Nutella for blood. Lightbox Kulturhaus, 2027 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 750-3811. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 14. $15-$20.
The Realistic Joneses
These aren't the Joneses to keep up with. They don't have perfect bodies, jobs, marriages or kids, and they don't drive BMWs. These are The Realistic Joneses, and in Will Eno's affecting one-act play, two couples who both happen to be named Jones get to know one another in unexpectedly poignant ways. John (Michael O'Connell) and Pony (Dana Green) move in next door to Bob (Darius Pierce) and Jennifer (Kerry Ryan) in the suburbs of a quiet mountain town.. As the couples socialize, Bob and Pony become attracted to one another, as do John and Jennifer. Mercifully, this doesn't degenerate into some tawdry tableau of geriatric swinging. Despite the specters of decline and death that haunt Eno's script, his mordant dialogue earns well-deserved laughs and the quartet of actors navigate this bittersweet prose effortlessly. RICHARD SPEER. Third Rail Repertory Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 235-1101. 7:30 pm Wednesday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. Through Nov. 14. $42.50.
Remme's Run opened to rave reviews during last winter's Fertile Ground festival, and local audiences have anxiously anticipated the world premiere of this ambitious multimedia presentation. Crafted from historical accounts of the Oregon Territory by writer-director (and two-time Oregon Book Award nominee) Wayne Harrel, it recounts the tale of a cattleman's desperate ride north from Sacramento to save his fortune and start a family on Sauvie Island. Animated backdrops, photographic projections and an immersive milieu of era-appropriate background artists situated about the theater bring the second-grade history tale to life. JAY HORTON. CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Sundays, Oct. 16-Nov. 7. $28.
Sex with Strangers
It's hard to imagine two characters more different than Olivia and Ethan. She's a neurotic intellectual who's always cleaning; he talks with his mouth full and pees with the bathroom door open. But it doesn't take long for these polar personalities to wind up doing the nasty in Sex With Strangers, playwright Laura Eason's ode to romance in the age of Wi-Fi. Olivia and Ethan meet at a secluded writers' retreat in Michigan during a blizzard that's knocked out the cottage's Internet signal. Cut off from the digital realm, they get to know one another quickly. As it turns out, she's an unsuccessful novelist and he's the author of a bestselling memoir about his prolific sexual exploits. Danielle Slavick deftly captures Olivia's insecurity and smouldering erotic potential. Padding around in pajama pants and frumpy sweaters, she's an adorable geek. Christopher M. Smith plays up Ethan's vanity and bravado—and he's a hot piece to look at in skimpy underwear and a tank top. The dialogue delivers plenty of laughs, but Portland Center Stage stays pretty PG. For an au courant love story that's about having sex with strangers, Sex With Strangers is retrograde in its sensibility. Gender stereotypes abound. Olivia is uptight, commitment-seeking and worried about aging; Ethan is a crass stud-muffin who just wants to get laid. In the end, monogamy prevails. Still, with its sharp dialogue and nuanced performances, the play is satisfying in the way that whipped cream is: a light treat before bedtime—the perfect nightcap and maybe even better than sex. RICHARD SPEER. Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave., 445-3700. 7:30 pm Tuesday-Sunday, noon Thursday, 2 pm Saturday-Sunday. Through Nov. 22. $25-50.
Tommy J and Sally
Race relations headline the Firehouse stage again, following the traditionally diverse venue's multi-month hiatus from staging theater. In Mark Medoff's (Children of a Lesser God) political drama Tommy J and Sally, Tom is a black intruder who holds Sally, a white, Jewish celebrity hostage in her home. Rather than violence, the play centers around witty banter and taut debates as Tom talks Sally's ear off about the state of race relations in America. Put on by local African American theater company PassinArt, with the intent of inspiring community discussion, this show from director Andrea White will have two talk-back nights following the shows on Oct 17 and 18. Not recommended for children. Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 North Interstate Ave. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 3 pm Sundays. Through Nov. 8. $25.
COMEDY & VARIETY
Comedy In Space!
Conceived by Whitney Streed, produced and hosted by Streed and Jenna Zine and with media and MC support from Hutch Harris of The Thermals, Comedy in Space is a brand-new, monthly comedy showcase. This month's show will be headlined by the winner of the 35th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition, Nathan Brannon, and will feature Nariko Ott, JoAnn Schinderle, David Mascorro and Christen Manville, along with Christian Ricketts checking in from space in character as Carl Sagan. The Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan St., 223-4527. 8 pm Wednesday, Nov. 4. $6-$8. 21+.
Dirty Roast Battle 2015
Strap in and hold on tight. Some of Portland's best local comics are getting together for an all-out roast battle. With matchups and order chosen by random lottery, the winner of each round of this three-round bracket-style tournament will be chosen by the audience. Helium's 2015 Dirty Roast Battle Champion will be crowned in a three-way battle. Hosted by Jacob Christopher, this roast battle features the best funny folks Portland has to offer including Christian Ricketts, Gabe Dinger, Amanda Arnold, Wednesday Weiss, Philip Schallberger, Jordan Casner, Trevor Thorpe, Alex Rios, Kyle Harbert, Jake Silberman, Scoot Herring and Nariko Ott. Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. 8 pm Wednesday, Nov. 4. $12-$20. 21+.
Joey "Coco" Diaz
Joey "Coco" Diaz was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in New Jersey. He's performed comedy all over the country, and his unique style of storytelling has made him one of the most sought-after performers in the entertainment business. The host of The Church of What's Happening Now podcast and a regular guest on the Joe Rogan Experience, Diaz comes to Portland for a five-night engagement that's most certain to be edifying, insightful and above all hilarious. Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 5, 7:30 pm & 10 pm Friday-Saturday, Nov. 6-7. $17-$30. 21+.
A monthly showcase dedicated to comedy that can be musical, character-driven, story-basedm or sketch, Quirktastic brings together some of Portland's most unique comedic talents. November's installment features Bri Pruett and Lucia Fasano, and as always is presented by Barbara Holm and Chris Khatami. . Ford Food & Drink, 2505 SE 11th Ave. #101, 236-3023. 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 7. Free, suggested donation.
Siren Nation Presents: Hell Hath No Funny
Join Siren Nation for their bi-annual comedy show that features some of the funniest ladies in all of comedy business. Part of the Siren Nation Festival, Wednesday's show is hosted by Caitlin Weierhauser, and features a killer lineup that includes Portland's funniest person, Amy Miller; Karina Dobbins, who has opened for Trevor Noah and toured with W. Kamau Bell; and SF Sketchfest vet and Portland's Funniest Person semi-finalist Dinah Foley. The Secret Society, 116 NE Russell St., 493-3600. 8 pm Wednesday, Nov. 4. $10-$12. 21+.
Think of a traditional spelling bee, then turn it upside down with improv scenes and characters based on the words spelled on stage. Any word, regardless of the definition or how it might be used in a sentence, is up for creative grabs. The Brody Theater, 16 NW Broadway, 224-2227. 9:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 7. $8.
Going Red Cabaret
Local songstress and Zumba instructor, Alexis Moore Eytinge, and her mainstay pianist, Mont Chris Hubbard, are forming a trio with singer Ecaterina Lynn for a cerebral cabaret. Themed around how far the human psyche stretches, the show features songs like "The Abusive Medley" and "Miss Byrd" at the old world wine bar on Distillery Row. An accompanying raffle will give away massage gift cards and a life coaching session. Vie de Boheme, 1530 SE 7th Ave., 360-1233. 8 pm Wednesday, Nov. 8. $5-$30.
Side by Side, Moving in Twos
Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance's first evening-length show is a lineup of duets by Portland choreographers like Northwest Dance Project's Franco Nieto, Carla Mann, Luke Gutgsell, Eliza Larson and Muddy Feet director Rachel Slater. Portland's local dance scene is struggling right now, and this new company's mission is to help local talent make a living. True to their word, every dancer in the show is Portland-based. Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont St., 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 4 pm Saturday, Nov. 5-7. $15.