Opening This Week

Out of Their Minds
Your home for consistently good improv, the Brody presents this latest show in which the troubled cast of characters expose their improvised subconscious minds. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through June 28, $10

Withering Looks
Ol' Cygnet's been out of the loop for a while, and they've been missed. Now, Portland's only "literary cabaret" is back with an irreverent homage to the deceptively irreverent Bronte gals. Cygnet, at the Russell Street Theatre, 403 NW 5th, 493-4077, Opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through June 22, $15

A Piece of My Heart
Shirley Lauro's play about the true drama of six women who served in Vietanam. Four were nurses, one was a Red Cross volunteer, and you guessed it, the sixth woman was a country western singer. Chock full of heartache, desperation, and the uglinesss of war. portland actors conservatory at the Firehouse Theater, 1436 SW Montgomery St, 972-5613, Thurs Preview 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $20

One Week Only

* Holy Goats
Improv and more improv. Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave, 777-1907, Sun 2 pm, $7 with coffee and bagel

Holy ghost

Brigid Pierce stages a reading of her musical The Holy Ghost, which posits that the Virgin Mary was actually raped, not immaculately impregnated, and then shows how Mary covers up the rape by telling everyone that her baby is the son of God. Man, those Christians are just a bunch of suckers. Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center,1819 NW Everett, 228-6972, Tues-Thurs, June 17-19, $5

The Ulysses Project presents Kick the Squirrel in the Face and Almonds on my Mind
It's got a fancy title and some fancy descriptive terms in its press release ("long form improv"; "semi-elliptical structure" and so on), but the Ulysses Project is, at its core, basic, suggestion-fueled improv with some PSU and Brody students running the show. Hollywood Theater, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd, 281-4215, Friday Only, 8 pm, $10

Current Runs

* Bang. Curtain. End of Show.
Bang. Curtain. End of Show. is simultaneously a celebration of melodrama and an exploration of what it means to be at the theatre--i.e. watching people play dress-up and act. The loose script, adapted from sources like Bluebeard & Irma Vep by Charles Ludlum and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, employs classic stock characters in the typical haunted castle/locked up love scenario. There's a villain, an ingenue, a hero, a fool, a maid and some minions. You get the idea. Nothing about this show takes itself too seriously, from the constantly exposed accordion/keyboard accompanist who's always underfoot to the flimsy paperboard tree props occasionally littering the stage. Even the actors' direct meditations on the nature of performance, which they slip into and out of without warning, are goofy, albeit thought provoking. AS defunkt theatre, at the Back Door Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 993-9062, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through June 21, $8-15

* Frogz
Frogz is as fun and innovative as it ever was, though it could benefit from some fresh writing... A new work, "Rabbits," is possibly the best skit of the lot, featuring movement skill as sophisticated as any of the other acts, and a clever, witty story to bring it all to the next level. JWS Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave, 231-9581, Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 1:30 pm, Sun 5:30 pm, through June 20 (extended), $14-$24

* Memoir
John Murrell's play follows the infamous 19th-century French actress Sarah Bernhardt as she nears the end of her life. As Bernhardt and her assistant Georges Pitou respectively, JoAnn Johnson and David Meyers make a wonderful team. The striking, frizzy-haired Johnson's love of melodrama is perfect for the delirious diva, who in her old age can't even communicate without recalling some tragic heroine from her long-played portfolio. She vamps about, swooning and sighing one minute, screaming insults and orders the next, while poor Pitou endures it all with tender resilience. Meyers, with his prissy mannerisms, handles Bernhardt's lunacy with an utterly endearing combination of disbelieving humor and genuine affection. JWS Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 220-2646, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through June 21, $18

Simon the Magus
Like the Enochian text it incorporates, Simon The Magus is... difficult. Simon, played by Chris Herman, is a middle-aged man on the roof of a building, vacillating between the excitement of discovering what he believes to be essential links to the meaning of existence and utter despair over the estrangement of his drug addicted daughter. It's difficult to actually understand what Simon is trying to explain as he whirls around, cruising from one subject to another. Partly that's because it doesn't make much sound sense, and also because he talks a mile a minute. When he segues into a very vulnerable, highly dramatic mode, recounting something intimate, it's uncomfortable--much more so than it is moving. MS Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 220-2646, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, Sun 7 pm, through June 21, $10-$12

* Portland Underground Showbiz Society Y'all
See those zany Famous Mysterious Actor Player do sketch comedy, improv, standup, and music. Also starring Rachael Parenta, The Minor Thirds, and Larry Shaw. Yee haw. Dale Anne's, SE 12th & Clay, Tues, 8 pm, free

Le Vaudeville Extravaganza
Vaudeville and transformation from three actors trained at the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theatre. This episode follows the musical journey of a theatrical clown. Zompei Productions, at the Artichoke Backgate Stage, 3130 SE Hawthorne, 1-800-FASTIXX, Fri-Sat 8, Sun 5:30, $10