It takes a truly exceptional city to produce a theater scene filled with mixed martial arts fighters, singing asylum inmates and a very huggable caterpillar. Those characters were some of the stars of 2018's finest productions, and while they will be a challenging act to follow, a quick glance at the upcoming works of 2019 suggests it will be a varied, invigorating year for theatergoers.
The following is a schedule of the most promising plays that will run in Portland through March. For all we know, these 10 works will deflate in the face of the hype and be eclipsed by something no one is on the lookout for. But all of the theater companies behind these productions are renowned for their creativity, ingenuity and guts. If you're wondering what to see in 2019, this lineup is a place to start.
Teenage Dick, Artists Repertory Theatre, Jan. 6-Feb. 3
Shakespeare's Richard III gets reconfigured for a high school setting. The protagonist is a ruthless 17-year-old determined to become senior class president.
Witch Hunt, CoHo Productions, Jan. 17-27
The CoHo Clown Cohort, the gloriously goofy team that staged an uproarious version of The Glass Menagerie set to Philip Glass music, returns to ask an all-important question: How do you beat Satan at musical chairs?
Buyer & Cellar, Portland Center Stage, Jan. 19-March 3
This comedy is set in Barbra Streisand's private shopping mall and directed by PCS associate artistic director Rose Riordan, who also directed the visually astounding Kodachrome in 2018.
Fertile Ground Festival, various venues, Jan. 23-Feb. 3
This festival of new works, which is entering its 10th year, has the kind of kinetic energy that can only come from artists who refuse to play it safe in terms of writing, performances, visuals and ideas.
Hazardous Beauty, PassinArt, Jan. 25-Feb. 17
Set in Portland, this world premiere written by Bonnie Ratner explores the complex relationship between a black woman and a white woman that begins in a college class.
The Delays, Theatre Vertigo, Jan. 25-Feb. 23
LineStorm Playwrights member Sara Jean Accuardi has previously adapted Shakespeare and written about embattled teachers and growing up. The Delays sounds like one of her most intriguing works yet: a time-jumping tale about people in an airport "going nowhere."
Tragedy: A Tragedy, Defunkt Theatre, Feb. 8-March 16
Will Eno's absurdist take on journalism gets produced by one of the most consistently reliable theater companies in the city.
Dream|Logic, Hand2Mouth, Feb. 23-March 12
No one pushes the proverbial envelope quite like Hand2Mouth. Dream|Logic sounds like one of the company's boldest experiments yet—an interactive piece inspired by science fiction, fantasy and interviews with local public school students.
Jump, Milagro/Confrontation Theatre, March 21-April 13
Steeped in grief, a young woman looks for a spot to vape and finds much more. Written by Charly Evon Simpson and directed by La'Tevin Alexander, who gave one of the best performances of 2018 in Street Scenes' Topdog/Underdog.
Straight, Triangle Productions!, March 7-23
A bisexual love triangle is the focus of this play. It's a perfect choice for Triangle Productions!, which has previously explored issues of romance and identity with compassion and wit.