O Lovely Glowworm
Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Thurs 12 pm, Sun 2 pm, through April 24, $15-55

It's good to know where to go to get what you want, so know this: If you're budgeted for plays at Portland Center Stage and you want something safe like My Fair Lady, hit the Newmark mainstage. If you want something startling, like something that features, say, a taxidermied goat sitting atop a rubbish heap in 1918 Ireland and discussing the meaning of life--well then you'll want Glen Berger's O Lovely Glowworm, now playing at the PCS side stage, the Winningstad. Blind and pain-riddled, Berger's nameless goat (a hilariously rudimentary puppet operated and voiced with obvious glee by Ebbe Roe Smith) knows not what it is or where it is, but is convinced that the one thing it is not is a… goat--the saddest of nature's miracles. To understand the mystery of its existence (and to distract itself from the terrible pain), it enters its own brain, where characters like the hapless WWI soldier Marveaux (Troy West) engage in dopey romances with mermaids, and a hapless inventor MacMann (Tim True) struggles to invent a self-cleaning privy.

Toilets, mermaids, World War I; somehow Berger weaves these disparate threads into a loony, semi-coherent narrative. More importantly, the actors revel in speaking his heightened romantic dialogue. As Marveaux, West delivers melodramatic love affirmations for the beautiful mermaid (Christine Calfas) in a relentlessly funny hangdog monotone. He would steal the show if he weren't so well matched by Jim Iorio as his ridiculous, dashing rival Halliwell. Meanwhile, Tim True flits about joyfully, sings terrible impromptu songs.

So much more than that happens, but it's impossible to conjure the zany scope of Berger's vision in a review this size. One thing is clear: nobody involved is having a bad time, and PCS knows it. They've brought Berger back for next season, when his off-Broadway hit Underneath the Lintel will make its Portland premiere. Once again, it'll be in the Winningstad, and once again, that's just fine with me.