Opening This Week

Art is probably the least original production that a theater company could do outside of Romeo and Juliet, but there's also a reason why so many companies continue to do it year after year anyway: It's a crowd pleaser, and it has some ideas to throw around. The premise of Art is simple: a well-to-do man buys an all-white painting for a great sum of money, then spends the rest of the play defending himself to his friends. The play really does make you reconsider the boundaries of what art can be, and it's very funny, and it even touches with surprising profundity on the delicate nature of friendship. The three actors in A.R.T's production, Allen Nause, Tim True, and Michael O' Connell, are all impressive, and the direction by Dennis Bigelow is as tight as can be. You will, at the very least, be entertained. Artists Repertory Theater, 1516 SW Alder St, 241-1278, Opens Fri, Wed-Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Feb 24, $16

Closing This Week

All Jane No Dick
Three women. No script. No rules... Big Belly, at the Russell Street Theatre, 116 NE Russell Street, 233-5798, Opens Sat, Thurs 8:30 pm, Fri-Sat 10 pm, through Jan 26, $10

Diabolical Experiments
Improv with a mad scientist theme. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Jan 26, $8

Frida, un retablo
A theatrical portrait of the legendary cult surrealist, Frida Kahlo. The Miracle Theater, 525 SE Stark Street, 236-7253, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Jan 26, $12

Current Runs

The Bottom Rung
Sketch comedy with vampires, wrestlers, secret agents, ninjas, and much more. The Bottom Rung, at the Back Door, 4319 SE Hawthorne, 231-8191, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through Feb 16, $6

Ashes to Ashes and A Kind of Alaska
Two one acts by Harold Pinter, the master of brutal comedy about the British middle class. The Profile Theatre Project at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 242-0080, Opens Fri, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Feb 17, $12-20

Death of a Salesman
Looks like Willy Loman and the gang are back for one more round of failure and depression! Jack Oakes Theater, 2820 NE Sandy Blvd, 238-9692, Opens Fri, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through Feb 2, $10

Driving Miss Daisy
Aging, crotchety, white Southern lady meets proud, soft-spoken black man in this Pulitzer-Prize winning heartwarmer. Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Opens Fri, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Feb 9, $15-19

Enter The Guardsman
A comedy about a famous acting couple with infidelity issues. Sylvia's Class Act Dinner Theater, 5115 NE Sandy Blvd, 288-6828, Thurs-Sat 6:15 pm, Sun 5:15 pm, through March 2, $31.95 (includes dinner)

Nunsense 'A Men'
The age-old story of men dressed up as nuns. Flying Rhinoceros Theater, 1440 NW Overton Street, 239-5919, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Feb 9, $15

Phaedra's Love
Stellar performances by Madeleine Sanford as Phaedra and James Moore as the filthy sloth, Hippolytus, make the first half of this violent, oversexed rendition of Seneca's ancient tragedy a mesmerizing treat. Moore fills the room with nastiness, and Sanford is all oozing temptress, as his conquest-obsessed stepmom who falls in love with him. Hippolytus resists, Phaedra pursues, and the seduction scene between them crackles with repellent energy. From there, the play goes downhill, primarily because Phaedra dies soon after. Without the fabulous chemistry of her leading characters, playwright, Sarah Kane seems to run out of interesting things to write about and resorts to excessive, almost ludicrous violence to finish things off. The show never becomes boring, but its jarring, confusing switch from subtle power play to copious gore leaves something to be desired. Defunkt Theatre, at the Back Door Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 993-9062, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through Feb 16, $8-15

Richard II
The tale of the Poet King who brought his country to the verge of rebellion and ruin. Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company, 1111 SW Broadway, 288-8400, Opens Fri, Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, through Feb 17, $18-36

The Seagull
Chekhov translated by Tom Stoppard... should be all right. Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Opens Fri, Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Thurs 12 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Feb 3, $16-44