There are some really good things happening onstage this weekend.
9 Parts of Desire sounds amazing—the one-woman show about nine very different Iraqi women is co-produced by CoHo and Cygnet Productions; my notoriously irascible freelance theater writer, Temple Lentz, called it "one of the most compelling pieces of solo theater you will ever see on a Portland stage."
The Dinner at Imago Theatre is just a fantastic little show. Dinner party gone wrong. Musical numbers. Acute social anxiety buried under hilariously outsized hijinks. I loved it. I took a friend who generally considers himself too rock 'n' roll for local theater—after the show, he said, "Damn, if theater was always like that I would go all the time. I might actually recommend that to people."
You've got two good bets at Portland Center Stage—John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, which examines faith/certainty via a nun who accuses a priest of molesting a schoolboy; and Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, about a Hollywood leading man whose career is threatened by the small matter of his homosexuality. Of the two, The Little Dog Laughed is my pick: Doubt is a perfectly fine script, but it's also the type of Serious Theater that's just begging for a movie adaptation (which is apparently in the works, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep)—and where, ultimately, it doesn't seem to matter if you see it onstage or on film. Not only is The Little Dog Laughed considerably more fun, but its theater-in-the-round treatment and frequent, intelligent manipulation of theatrical conventions give it that elusive only-in-the-theater quality.
There's also Eloise and Ray at Integrity Productions. I saw it last night. It's a fine little coming-of-age tale about a girl in a small town, chafing against the expectations of her father and her boyfriend, clinging to illusions she needs to lose in order to grow up, etc. Some great acting from Ellie Johnson in the lead. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for the layperson, but if you're into theater and you've seen the plays above, you could do worse.
Profile Theatre closes out their season of works by playwright John Guare with The House of Blue Leaves. Our freelance theater critic Temple Lentz called it "little more than two hours of one-note fumbling", but other critics in town have been more favorable—the Oregonian's Richard Wattenberg says it "nicely captures the play's tricky balance of humor, cruelty, and pathos" and the Trib's Eric Bartels thought that "Profile and its artistic director, Jane Unger, hit perfect notes here."
(It is interesting how wildly critical reception to theater varies in this town. The O's Marty Hughley reported the news that Profile had selected Neil Simon as their 2008-9 featured playwright by observing that Simon's "commercial potency and his gifts as a trenchant observer of human foibles... make him a natural choice as the focus for Profile Theatre's 2008-'09 season," while I tend to agree with a friend who noted that the selection sounds "like some sort of brilliant subversive plot to kill theater." )
As always, hit Found It! for theater show dates, as well as book, and visual art listings.