Opening This Week

Mamma Mia
This "sunny, funny tale of family and friendship" features music by ABBA, including the timeless and inspirational hits "Dancing Queen" and "Take A Chance On Me." Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, 790-ARTS, Opens Dec 27, runs Tues-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat 2 pm, Sun 1 pm, 6:30 pm, through Jan 1, $25-70

Closing This Week

Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant
For those unfamiliar with John Irving's book, A Prayer For Owen Meany, Owen Meany is not, as his name may suggest, a bully. Quite the contrary, Owen is a wisp of a tween in 1953 New Hampshire. Fed up with playing the harnessed angel in the annual Christmas pageant, this year Owen refuses and, in so doing, shakes up tradition. Besides questioning the presence of no fewer than six turtledoves circling the manger, Owen also introduces a bit of metaphysics to his hometown and, of course, nothing is ever the same again. Considering the Senior Citizen Center-friendly humor of Irving's story, ART's cast does well not to annoy. Genevieve Andersen (as the wallflower who wins the part of Mary) and Paul G. Miller (as the Angel on High) are particularly good, though the production's greatest asset is its ensemble cast. WG Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, 241-1278, Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 4 pm, 7 pm, $15-40

This Wonderful Life
On paper, a one-man stage adaptation of the holiday film classic It's A Wonderful Life seems suspect at best. But then you factor in the addition of star Mark Setlock—whose other one-man show, the posh New York restaurant-skewering Fully Committed, absolutely killed Portland audiences last year—and things suddenly seem a bit less dire. And sure enough, though Setlock and playwright Steve Murray's This Wonderful Life has about as much depth as a wading pool, it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch, due largely to Setlock's mastery of caricatures that walk that fine line between ridicule of his source material and loving homage. His Jimmy Stewart, as Jimmy Stewarts tend to be, is cartoonish; more interesting are the subtle, side-splitting mannerisms he brings to supporting roles like Violet Bick and the ancient real estate slumlord Mr. Potter (his relentless gumming of an imaginary pair of false teeth is a highlight). But the most amazing aspect of Life is the pure spectacle of it all—Setlock's rapid-fire transitions between these characters is a feat of impressionistic juggling unlike anything you will see this year, and more entertaining, as my date put it, than "watching a dog do acrobatics." Which is very entertaining indeed. JWS Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Thurs-Fri 2 pm, 8 pm, Sat 2 pm, through Dec 24, $15-56

Current Runs

Much like Frogz and their other repertory works, the good folks at Imago have reworked this original kid-friendly animal/illusion showcase, wisely incorporating the presence of a giant dinosaur who will be wrestled by prehistoric humans. Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th, 231-9581, Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 1:30 pm, Sun 5:30 pm, through Jan 1, $16-31


George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
It just ain't Christmas without The Nutcracker. And that's why we hate Christmas. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, 790-ARTS, Thurs-Fri 7:30 pm, Sat 1 pm, through Dec 24, $18-98


Superego: In the Name of Awesome
Fast and furious sketch comedy, brought to you by the self-loving folks at Superego Productions. Fez, 316 SW 11th, 221-7262 ex. 41, Fri 9 pm, $7 (includes admission to Shut Up and Dance w/DJ Gregarious)

The Bi-Polar Express
The latest offering from the Portland-based comedy quintet the 3rd Floor is, quoting their literature, "about loneliness, depression, boredom, babies, and the Yule log at Timberline Lodge." Expecting a hilarious sketch comedy show for cynics and Catholic priests alike, just in time for the holidays, instead I found a gifted cast with a production that was more promising than hilarious. I also found it would probably be inappropriate for priests. WG The Miracle Theatre, 525 SE Stark, 258-1681, Fri 8 pm, $10