One Week Only

Words and Pictures
Staged readings of one-acts (WORDS) inspired by the art in the gallery (PICTURES). Readers Theatre Repertory, at the Blackfish Gallery, 420 NW 9th Ave, 295-4997, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $8

Closing This Week

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
Profile continues their season of Pinter with two of his later one acts. Alaska, about a woman who wakes from a 29-year coma, has an extremely unoriginal, but still intriguing premise that is ruined by a one-note performance by Jean Miller as the woman. Ashes, a trippy study of the final hours in a dysfunctional couple's relationship, fares slightly better thanks to the comic timing of Don Alder. Neither play, however, is entertaining enough to warrant being pointless. The Profile Theatre Project at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 242-0080, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Feb 17, $12-20

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, over-sexed 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 gorefest 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, Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, through Feb 17, $18-36

The Fiddler on the Roof
The story of Tevye, Tzeitel, Motel, Hodel, Perchik, Chava, and Fyedka... among others. Lakewood Theatre Company , 368 S State St, 635-3901, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm & 7 pm, through Feb 17, $20-22

Current Runs

After the Zipper
This one contains a three-person orgy and full-frontal Stark Raving, at the CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through Mar 2, $10-20

* Art
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

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)

Hal Foreen: Vinyl Vaccine
This show has a premise that looks brilliant on paper: three guys improvise without talking, gathering the ideas for their work from the random beats of a manic DJ. The result would be a surreal, hilarious blend of pantomime and weird music if the members of the group, John Breen, Nate Halloran, and Brad Fortier had even an ounce of miming talent. Tragically, they don't. They are all stellar improvisers with great comic timing and energy, but lack the proper tools to convey their ideas within this medium. Their talents are wasted on a show that ends up being a sloppy, frustrating mess of funny faces and frantic gestures. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8:30 pm, through Feb 23, $10

St. Nicholas
The marvelous Ted Rosium stars in this meditation on sex, ennui, love, and vampires. Cygnet, at the Russell Street Theatre, 116 NE Russell St, 493-4077, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Feb 23, $12-15

Triple Espresso, A Highly Caffeinated Comedy
Magic and theater mix in this fictitious reunion of the once-promising comedy team, "Maxwell, Butternut, and Bean." Triple Espresso, at the Portland Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, 2nd Floor, 1219 SW Park, Tues-Thurs, Sat-Sun 7:30 pm, Fri 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3 pm, through April 21, $39-45, includes dessert and coffee

Where's Toto?

Dorothy A. Hirschís self-deprecating one-woman show focuses on the uncomfortable topic of sexual orientation. Youíll leave feeling like you know a bit too much about Hirsch, but that having a laugh at her expense was worth the trip. Stark Raving, at the CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through Mar 2, $12

Lorca's erotic tale of a woman imprisoned by her own imagination. The Miracle Theater, 525 SE Stark Street, 236-7253, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Mar 9, $15