Opening This Week

* Faust. Us.
It's always nice when two theater companies can set aside their differences and work together. Frequent Stark Raving contributor Joseph Fisher has written a Faust-inspired comedy specifically for the Theatre Vertigo company, which just keeps getting better. Stark Raving, at the CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through Jan 17, $10-18

One Week Only

White Trash Murder Mystery Dinner
The Crippled Angel film production company presents a holiday fundraising dinner replete with meatloaf, greenbean casserole, and a mulleted-out murder mystery. Call for details. Crippled Angel at DV8, 5021 SE Powell, 449-7296, Sunday evening, $30

Closing This Week

1944 Christmas From Home
Tapestry continues its radio theater-style study of servicemen and the people they know, trying to celebrate Christmas in the throes of World War II. The company's last production, 1943 Christmas From Home, was a rousing success. Tapestry Theatre, at the Hollywood, 4122 NE Sandy, 245-6919, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Dec 21, $8-16

Altered States of America
Altered States takes a thoughtful look at America's relationship with mind-altering drugs, which too often resembles codependency, a swinging back and forth between overindulgence and guilt. And though narrator Torrey Cornwell ironically acknowledges the crotchety, paternalistic view from which the story is told, the play too often smacks of deadhead head trips. The use of a Jefferson Airplane song (you know the one) to cue a scene made me want to stuff my ears with Zoloft. What Altered States could probably use most is be a nice long intermission, with time to use the bathroom, have a cigarette, and feed your head. TP Pavement Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 777-2771, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 20, $13.50-15

* Attendance Is Mandatory
A series of sketches skewing recent ridiculous political events, acted out by a man with little to no stage presence, in a setting that resembles a basement. The skits in Reuben Nisenfield's Attendance Is Mandatory are loosely assembled, with sloppy, often nonexistent transitions connecting them. In some, Nisenfield is addressed by a voice in his head that comments on his pathetic life and compels him to do its bidding. In others, he stages cartoonish battles between real-life politicians, who appear in the guises of various toys. The sum of these elements is sporadically funny, but always spontaneous. One could imagine Nisenfield play-acting, whether there are people watching or not, perhaps performing for his pets, or a couch full of stuffed animals. A sense of amiable, shuffling lunacy pervades, making an otherwise half-baked show compulsively watchable. JWS Toad City Productions, at the Back Door, 4321 SE Hawthorne, 736-1027, Thurs 10 pm, $7-9

Judy's Scary Little Christmas
See review this issue. Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Dec 21, $19-$23

Talented director Lorraine Bahr misguides Rumi's young cast by staging the text superficially straight. Though the poet Rumi was born in Afghanistan and wrote about the then-idyllic, now decimated holy cities of the Middle East, the play shies away from any ironic critique of the subject matter. In a time when Americans know little of Arab culture beyond Fascist propaganda, a jolt of thoughtful and poetic verse shouldn't be diluted by actors putting on ambiguous accents and mugging for the audience. Where the play could be teased for its blatant sexism (rape and polygamy are taken for granted), the sex-swaps and seductions are treated with Three's Company farcical hijinx. A traditional, religiously disciplined production of Rumi could have amazed audiences with its universal soul, but this loosely translated, goofed-up play all but saps the text of its potential impact. TP Toad City Productions, at the Back Door, 4321 SE Hawthorne, 736-1027, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 20, $10-12

The SantaLand Diaries & A Christmas Memory
The lesson learned when PCS put on this show last year is that David Sedaris' writing does not translate well to a theatrical setting, and yet the production was hugely popular, so PCS is reviving it. Perhaps the name recognition is keeping the seats filled, because it can't possibly be word of mouth. Steve Wilkerson's mugging performance in SantaLand Diaries is a fatal blow to Sedaris' famed tone of comic dryness. The adaptation of Capote's Christmas Memory fares slightly better as glossy holiday cheer, but is not worth sitting through the slaying of Diaries to get to. Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, Thurs noon, through Dec 23, $16-51

Current Runs

Jump for Joy!
It has a nauseating title, but Do Jump!'s new holiday show should be jam-packed with cool aerial stunts and funny bits, if their past shows are any indicator, that is. Do Jump! at the Echo Theatre, 1515 SE 37th, 231-1232, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 3 pm, through Jan 4, $15-20

Current Runs

* The 3rd Floor Takes a Holiday
Jordana Barnes, Andy Buzan, Kevin-Michael Moore, and the rest of the mah-velous 3rd Floor crew present a holiday-themed sketch comedy bundle of joy. They'll address Valentine's Day, Father's Day, Easter, and the always hilarious Armistice Day! The 3rd Floor, at the Miracle Theatre, 525 SE Stark, 258-1681, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 27, $10

* Puppetz vs. People
This is probably the best show ComedySportz (with lots of help from Tears of Joy) puts on--an improv competition between humans and hilarious puppets. Tears of Joy at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 248-0557, Sat 8 pm, through Dec 27, $10-14

They got a great name these Port-a-Potty Karate improvisers, but do they have a great game? Come and find out! Port-a-Potty Karate at the West End Theater, 1220 SW Taylor, 238-5518, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $6

* Antiques Improv Show
The Brody revives its popular riff on the Antiques Road Show, and for good reason. The Antiques Improv Show's blend of audience participation and object "appraisals" is one of the most fun and innovative the company has ever come up with. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 20, $12


* Selections
This is the fifth installment of this quirky event which involves ten stellar Portland choreographers performing a "tiny dance" every 15 minutes. Linda Austin, Mike Barber, Tracy Broyles, and seven more will represent. Ten Tiny Dances at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, 331-0436, Thurs 8 pm, $15