Opening This Week

Tears of Joy presents Puppetz Vs. People
Comedy improv competition between puppets and people. Winningstad Theater, 1111 SW Broadway, 224-TIXX, Sat 8 pm, through Dec 29, $10-16.50

One Week Only

* The 24 Hour Play
The concept: Playwrights have one night to write a short play, and the company has the next day to prepare the play for performance the following evening. It's theater-on-the-run, and it's loads of fun. Even the fuck-ups are loads of fun. Do not miss. Theatre Vertigo at the Russell Street Theater, 116 N Russell, 306-0870, Sat 8 pm, $5-10

Closing This Week

A Christmas Carol
This year's version of Dickens' unstoppable story suffers from a script by David McCann that seems to have pulled text directly from the novel, as opposed to actually turning it into a piece for the stage. The result is an energetic, technically stunning reading of a great story, but not a play. The cast does the best it can, running around the stage and working up prodigious amounts of sweat, and the incredible Ted Rosium makes a stunning Scrooge, but even the Royal Shakespeare Company couldn't keep this narration-bogged adaptation from dragging. Still, the music and light design are gorgeous, and the ending oozes enough Christmas love to melt even the stingiest hearts. Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sat, Sun 2 pm, Thurs 12 pm, through Dec 24, $16-44

Christmas With the Crawfords
Nothing says "holiday cheer" like Joan Crawford, the bitchiest woman on planet Earth. Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Dec 22, $12-16

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
The I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change juggernaut rolls on... World Trade Center Auditorium, 121 SW Salmon, 239-5919, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 22, $23-25

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Based on the popular novella, which I know I've read, but can't remember a darn thing about. Lakewood Theatre Company, 368 S State St, 635-3901, Fri-Sun 7:30 pm, Sat 2 pm, through Dec 22, $9-11

Tru
Jazz pianist Robert Hicks plays Truman Capote in this one-man show about one of the most flamboyant voices ever! Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Dec 22, $15-19

Oregon Ballet Theater presents The Nutcracker
The most boring ballet ever concocted. Or maybe I've just seen it 500,000 times. Keller Auditorium, SW Third and Clay, 222-5538, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat 2 pm, Sun 1 & 5 pm, through Dec 23, $5.50-87.00

Current Runs

House of Cunt presents 21st Century Funhouse
Cunts rule in this dynamic fusion of sketch comedy, performance art, dance, and song. Stark Raving Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through Jan 5, $12

Frogz
This innovative family classic just keeps comin' back for more. Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave, 231-9581, Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 1:30 pm, Sun 5:30 pm, through Dec 30, $9-23

Money Shot
Two documentary filmmakers set out to find the true story behind a Pulitzer-Prize winning photo of a female citizen in a war-torn country who seems to be on her knees to protect a small child from a soldier. The men are shocked to discover that the real story surrounding the photo is nothing like they imagined. The manipulative, deceptive power of photography is a fascinating subject, and is handled exceedingly well in this play, right up till the end of the first act, when the woman's true story finally comes forth. At this point, the playwright seems to run out of steam, and so fills the remaining hour by making her characters go implausibly crazy from the shock of having their illusions of heroism shattered. Guns are waved, fights break out, screaming matches are endured, and though it by no means ruins the quiet power of the first act, it certainly dulls it. Stark Raving Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through Jan 5, $10-20