A theater season has a life span very much like a movie season. First there are the vague hints, causing the first stirrings of thespian enthusiasm. Then, with the announcement of company lineups comes the warm glow of anticipation, when every play on the horizon looks exciting, interesting, progressive, unique.

When the season starts, you go to the first few plays or performances. You're disappointed, of course, but your excitement isn't dampened. But then there's the third play, the fourth, the fifth, and onward. Disappointment devolves into a black, smoldering lump of bitterness that rests in the middle of your forehead, turning your face into a permanent glower.

Finally the two of you, spectator and art form, collapse in separate corners of the room in a state of mutual boredom and annoyance. But next season, you're back at the starting gate raring to go.

That said, certain aspects of the fall season look promising (re-read lead paragraph above). The biggest news is that Portland Center Stage has a new artistic director named Chris Coleman, and his first slate of plays is progressive and ambitious, beginning with The Devils, based on Dostoevsky's story about bumbling revolutionaries (Sept 26-Oct 22), followed by hot Celtic playwright Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan (Oct 31-Nov 26), and leading to A Christmas Carol, something of a PCS tradition that apparently Coleman couldn't get out of.

At the opposite end of the aesthetic--though not the financial--scale is the heavily funded Triangle Productions!, which has a packed menu of plays coming up. After Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight (pictured) comes the musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change on October 20th, simultaneously with Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, the Canadian play that was turned into the indie hit film about a gay man and a bi woman who are roommates. Triangle has its own A Christmas Carol to compete with the one at PCS. This being Triangle, Scrooge is a closeted gay and the three X-mas ghosts are Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, and Judy Garland.

The theatrical group that is the least easy to define, and the most adventurous right now, is Liminal (Metropolitan Art Studio, 2808 NE MLK, #13). Their fall slate includes Tableaux Vivants, which recreates in detail famous paintings and other things as per audience request, and delivered to your home or office, like a singing telegram.

There will be a benefit performance Sept 23 at MAS. Liminal is also plotting a street guerrilla piece outside the PICA Dada Ball on Sept 16th, and that's followed by a multi-media installation called Interrupt: An Interactive Hypermedia (Oct. 26-Dec 3rd), also involving artist John Berendzen who is also creative director and chief engineer.

After Suburban Motel (see calendar) Stark Raving continues with the swashbuckling gorefest Revenger's Tragedy in March. Cygnet Productions opens with an adaptation of Alan Gurganus's The Practical Heart, a novella about a woman reduced to poverty by her family's obsession with pulp westerns, and the company continues with an adaptation of Kafka's The Trial in February. Asylum Theatre has David Mamet's The Duck Variations on hand.