Badass Theatre Company burst onto the scene with 2013's Invasion!, a wondrous shapeshifter of a play that was devoured by a quartet of actors. For its second full production, it presents a 2010 play by Johnna Adams (who wrote Gidion's Knot, produced by Third Rail last season) about two young women who fall in love and travel on a humanitarian mission to South America, where one of them is murdered. When the survivor is visited by the other girl's conservative mother, Sans Merci becomes a story of grief, blame, heartache and anger.
Portland Actors Conservatory, 1436 SW Montgomery St., badasstheatre.org. Sept. 11-Oct. 11. $20.
The Piano Lesson
Portland Playhouse has been bouncing its way up and down August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle, and for its sixth Wilson production, it's taking on one of the playwright's most lauded works. It's set in 1936, as the end of the Depression sends waves of black migrants north, and it chronicles the battle of wills that engulfs a family when one member wants to sell the treasured piano. The company's previous Wilson productions have been excellent, and this should be no exception.
Portland Playhouse, 602 NE Prescott St., 488-5822, portlandplayhouse.org. Sept. 24-Nov. 2. $15-$48.
Some have hailed playwright Will Eno, known for his word-drunk dialogue and examinations of existential absurdity, the next big thing. (He counts Edward Albee among his fans.) Others find his plays empty and annoying. Third Rail likes tackling divisive work, so Eno seems fitting. Middletown follows the inhabitants of a small town in New England as they engage in fleeting, rapid-fire conversations that raise questions about human connection, loneliness and despair. Chances are, the play will resonate with local audiences: In 2009, Eno workshopped it at Portland Center Stage's JAW festival to enthusiastic response.
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 235-1101, thirdrailrep.org. Sept. 26-Oct. 19. $33-$47.
Artists Rep artistic director Dámaso Rodriguez has known Cuban-born actor and playwright Carlos Lacámara for years. The two are even working on a musical, set in Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now Rodriguez, whose parents were born in Cuba, is directing Lacámara's play about six refugees adrift at sea during the Mariel boatlift of 1980, when Castro let Cuban-Americans retrieve their family members—and then loaded their U.S.-bound boats with mental health patients and criminals.
Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 241-1278, artistsrep.org. Sept. 30-Oct.26. $25-$55.
Fledgling troupe the Reformers scored a hit last fall with The Revenants, an immersive, macabre production about zombies set in a garage in the Buckman neighborhood (it also had the perversely good fortune of opening on a weekend plagued by torrential downpours). The group is back with another site-specific production in the same location, an original adaptation of Henry James' Turn of the Screw that centers on a woman looking after two kids in an isolated, ghost-filled house. But the Reformers aren't stopping there: The story also blends ingredients from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which we can only hope means lots of blood, lipstick and mesmerizing carpet patterns.
1126 SE 15th Ave., thereformerspdx.com. 8 pm Thursdays-Sundays, Oct. 3-25. $18.
With recent productions of The Caretaker and The Lover, Imago Theatre has seized Harold Pinter as something of a totem playwright. Now director Jerry Mouawad is taking on the Nobel laureate's most iconic work, about a man who brings his wife to visit his working-class family in North London. It's a menacing play with dark sexual undercurrents, and the cast includes a few actors from Imago's previous Pinter productions, most notably Anne Sorce and Jeffrey Jason Gilpin.
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 231-9581, imagotheatre.com. Oct. 10-Nov. 9. $21-$27.
Marsha Norman's 1983 Pulitzer-winning play opens with a startling announcement delivered calmly: A divorced 30-something tells her mother she plans to kill herself at the end of the night. The rest of this two-hander unfolds in real time, as we're brought into the lonely lives of these women. It's a play "more harrowing than even its plot suggests," The New York Times wrote of its original Broadway production. With local powerhouses Jacklyn Maddux and Dana Millican, this CoHo show could be shattering. Pop-culture bonus: Oprah Winfrey was recently tapped to make her Broadway debut in a revival of the play.
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646, cohoproductions.org. Oct. 17-Nov. 8. $15-$25
Masque of the Red Death
Shaking the Tree artistic director Samantha Van Der Merwe (see page 6) crafts some of Portland's most inventive theater. Last season's Wilde Tales wove together six fairy tales by Oscar Wilde, and the subsequent One Flea Spare took audiences to plague-ravaged England. This production unites elements from both shows: It's a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, and the central tale features a prince who invites a thousand other nobles to his abbey to elude—what else?—a plague. It's timed perfectly for Halloween.
Shaking the Tree, 1407 SE Stark St., 235-0635, shaking-the-tree.com. Oct. 24-Nov. 22. $20-$25; $5 for ages 19 and under.
The Golden Dragon
There's not much work in translation happening in Portland (or in the U.S., for that matter). Boom Arts aims to change that, and it kicks off its third season with a reading of a play by Roland Schimmelpfennig, one of Germany's most-produced playwrights. It's a kaleidoscopic web of a play set in the kitchen of an Asian restaurant, and Boom Arts is bringing in a director and performers from Seattle's Azeotrope.
Shout House, 210 SE Madison St., boomarts.org. Oct. 25-26. $12-$20.