Opening This Week

Crowns
PCS presents Regina Taylor's popular gospel-infused musical, based on the book, Crown: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats. Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, opens Fri, runs Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, Thurs 12 pm, $15-56

The Water Principle
The Sowelu Ensemble presents Eliza Anderson's play about "forgotten landscapes and aggressive land grabs." Cast members include Deidre Atkinson and Michael Fetters, among other stalwarts. Back Door Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne, 230-2090, opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, $8-15

One Week Only

Amber Martin
Once again, Amber Martin mounts the tiny stage at the Wild Abandon restaurant to dole out her incredible characterizations and musical stylings. Dinner and drinks aren't included, but they're mm mmm good, so come early and treat your date right. Wild Abandon, 2411 SE Belmont, 232-4458, Tues 9 pm, $15

CATS
CATS the musical is now celebrating its 25th year of existence, which is a hell of a lot longer lifespan than any cat we've ever had. Schnitzer Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 790-ARTS, 7:30 pm Mar 21-25, 2 pm Mar 25, 1 & 6:30 pm Mar 26, $25-70

The Grotto
The Miracle Theatre continues its monthly staged reading series, "Miracle Grow," with a new work by Larry Johnson about "two lovers who have escaped the world to live in what seems to be a mystical mountain cave with a marble bed and a fig tree." Teatro Milagro, 525 SE Stark, 236-7253, Mon 7 pm, free

The Merchant of Venice
PSU brings five veterans of the London stage to perform this rendition of Shakespeare's classic, hailing from a few decent little organizations you might have heard of, like the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre. If you're a fan of good acting, you'll probably want to check 'em out. Lincoln Hall, PSU, SW Broadway & Market, 725-3307, 8 pm, Mar 17-18, $6-19

The War Project
City Club's theater series resumes this week for a special sneak preview of Sojourn's Michael Rohd's new work, The War Project, which examines, among other things, "the oncoming army of robotics projected by the Pentagon to replace live soldiers." Sojourn Space, 215 SE 9th, 228-7231, 7 pm, Mar 19, $15

Seinendan
One of Japan's most important "little theatre" troupes, Seinendan, drops in for a one-night-only performance of two Oriza Hirata comedies. Subtitles included. Lincoln Hall, PSU, SW Broadway & Market, 725-3307, Thurs 7 pm, $15.50-18.50

Closing This Week

Vanillatown Vaudevillians
Curtis Carlyle and Michael Mesa are jugglers who promise to deliver "90 minutes of show stopping stunts" that "transform mere juggling into pure entertainment." Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th, 231-1232, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 3 pm, ends Mar 19, $12-15

Current Runs

Cirque Du Soleil: Varekai
The latest incarnation of the only circus that doesn't suck is set "deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano." The Grand Chapiteau (a big blue and yellow tent), 2750 SW Moody, 1-800-678-5440, Tues-Sat 8 pm, Fri-Sat 4 pm, Sun 1 & 5 pm, $35-129.50

After School Girlfight! Kill! Kill!
The folks behind Portland's 3rd Floor sketch comedy troupe are behind the new show After School Girlfight!, but they're hiding their roots, operating under the moniker Gunhappy Theatrical Ensemble—which focuses on "cult favorites from the early 20th century"—and verbally shouting in their press release, "This is NOT sketch comedy!" Set in the campy '60s and '70s, the show is comprised of four one-acts, including "Deep Inside the Valley of the Girl Whores," a Russ Meyer-esque babe-fest with huge-breasted bad girls killing a pile of male hillbillies to get their hidden cash. "It's Not Easy Being Teen" is a pitch-perfect recreation of drippy after-school specials from the '70s, while "The Village of Damien's Baby" recalls Rosemary's Baby and other "scary kid" flicks with startling precision. There are very strong elements in After School... but it needs to be cut down, its funny ideas broken into smaller, manageable chunks that exist on their own and aren't stretched awkwardly to connect in a bloated evening of cohesive "theater." In short, it needs to be sketch comedy. JWS The Miracle Theatre, 525 SE Stark, 258-1681, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $12

What Mad Pursuit
The Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon presents a play that isn't quite so "classic": Julian Keith's new work about a couple in 1883 who excavate the site of ancient Troy, and discover what they believe to be King Priam's treasure. West End Theater, 1220 SW Taylor, 258-9313, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, $10-20

In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer
The NW Classical Theatre Company presents Heiner Kipphardt's play about the secret Atomic Energy Commission's investigation in 1954 that cleared the way for Oppenheimer to head up the Manhattan Project. Shoe Box Theater, 2110 SE 10th, 274-4771, opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 7 pm, Sun 2 pm, $12-18

Comedy/Improv

Theatresports
The Brody finally brings this popular form of improv to town, wherein a panel of judges honk the performers off the stage if they're sucking it up. It's a huge, massively entertaining hit up in Seattle. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th, 224-0688, Fri 8 pm, $7-10

Your Place or Mine?
For this run of Brody improv, the performers will stretch the limits of the physical space, executing scenes in every corner of the building—maybe even in your lap! Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th, 224-0688, Sat 8 pm, $7-10