Pipes at Curious Comedy.
  • Pipes at Curious Comedy.

After a long, boring holiday season, Portland's theater scene is kicking back into gear with a handful of promising shows opening this weekend, leading up to the Fertile Ground festival of new works at the end of the month.

In a coincidence that's a stroke of luck from a publicity standpoint, this weekend sees the opening of two shows written by local playwright Susan Mach: A Noble Failure, about the US education system, is opening at Third Rail, while Artists Rep is opening The Lost Boy, about the literal circus that ensues when a 4-year-old boy is kidnapped in 1874.

Profile Theatre is opening The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard (Profile dedicates each season to the work of an individual playwright). This show's notable for being the first play directed by Profile's new artistic director Adriana Baer.

As previewed in this weekend's arts section, comedy duo The Aces perform a sketch show that marks the first in a new collaborative series put on by Bad Reputations Productions (Road House: The Play, The Lost Boys - Live!) and The Theater Who Must Not Be Named. The Aces show is great fun, and I'm excited to see where this collaboration goes in the future.

Moscow New Drama Theatre is still running their excellent production of Nastasya Filoppovna at Artists Rep—that's tonight and tomorrow with supertitles, and an un-translated Russian version on Sunday afternoon.

Over at Curious Comedy, a show that's a really tough sell but I'm going to try to sell it anyway: The improvised musical Pipes has two shows left in its current run, tonight and tomorrow. My boyfriend dragged me to this show a few months ago; I attended with extreme reluctance, because... well, because "improvised musical." But I've seen Pipes twice now, and loved it both times—Curious assembles an incredibly talented cast, who take audience suggestion to create a complex, character-based piece of long-form improv. An accompanying pianist picks the timing and style of the musical numbers, and it's both impressive to watch the performers collaborate and frequently hilarious. (Fair warning, though: The first half of the show is short-form improv from Curious' house troupe, and it's... hit and miss. Curious also subjects their paying audience members to a video pitch asking for further financial support, which is kind of tacky and maddening.)

On Sunday at the Brody, it's the return of Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, a fun LA-based show headlined by the great Kyle Kinane that sees comedians creating off-the-cuff pieces of erotic fan fic based on audience suggestion. The Brody's a bit too small for the popularity of the show—last time it was a standing room-only, shitty visibility kind of a scene—but if you can get a ticket and a seat, it's a damn good time.

And finally, a bit of news: Rumor has it that bigwigs from the Theater Communications Group will be in town early next week to scope out Portland as a possible site for their 2014 national conference. That level of national attention would be huge for the local theater scene... Fingers crossed!