Opening This Week

A loose, modern update of the ancient Assyrian epic poem, Gilgamesh stars the reliable Tim True as Gilgamesh, a tyrannical overlord who teams up with a savage to raise Hell. It sounds very weird, but the Haven Project is pretty cool, and the script is written by Ebbe Roe Smith, who penned the amazingly hilarious screenplay to Falling Down. The Haven Project, at the Back Door Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway at Main, 872-9635, Wed, Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, through Feb 8, $15

Joe Orton's allegedly outrageous play about a bank heist gone all wonky. This production has an amazing cast, including Laura Faye Smith (haven't seen her in a while), Leif Norby, and Kevin-Michael Moore. Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 220-2646, Opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, $18-20

Trickster Tells This Tale
A six-week workshop on experimental storytelling resulted in this new show, which features six actors playing different variations on "tricksters" from folklore. Said tricksters include Brer Rabbit and the Monkey King. Play Workshop Theatre, at the Back Door, 4319 SE Hawthorne, 232-5375, Opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through Feb 21, $10

Closing This Week

* Hi!
Last chance to see the incredible cross-dressing superfreak diva Amber Martin doing her stellar one-woman show before she takes it on the road. When last Hi! showed M. William Helfrich wrote, "Martin has such great presence, I'd enjoy watching her throw clay, or give a dog worm medicine." Conduit Studio, 918 SW Yamhill, 4th Floor, 224-8499, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Jan 31, $10-13

* The Merchant of Venice
Never have I seen so many despicable people in one play. Director Robert Alf-ldi has robbed every last character of even the tiniest scrap of whimsy, decency, or hope for humanity that Shakespeare might have once intended to endow them with. Granted, Merchant's tale of a shifty Jew squaring off against a crew of equally shifty Christians, has never been an easy pill to swallow. But this leather-clad, leering cast of rapists, murderers, and thieves is very nearly indigestible. Here, men copulate with men while sweaty clubbers grind to Eminem's "White America." Couples writhe and grope on the floor while their friends cheer around them, and Lorenzo (Michael A. Newcomer) fucks his unfortunate wife Jessica (Kelly Tallent) over an office desk with such force she can hardly walk. This play filled me with a loathing and discomfort so acute I can only recommend it. JWS Portland Center Stage, 1111 SW Broadway, 274-6588, Tues-Wed, Sun 7 pm, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Thurs, Sun 2 pm, through Feb 1, $16-51

Current Runs

* The Bad Seed
Most people know The Bad Seed from the 1956 cult film starring the pigtailed Patty McCormack as a homicidal schoolgirl. On film, the adaptation of William March's novel comes across kitschy, like a long episode of The Twilight Zone. J. Paccassi's new stage adaptation deprives the audience the distant luxury of a movie screen, forcing the viewer to share the same room with a 10-year-old psychopath. Paccassi's direction dampens the shock value of the murderer child genre into a beautifully woozy chamber drama, with long bits of silence where horror takes the stage. Ina Strauss is incredible as the dreamboat housewife faced with an unspeakable terror in her own home. TP e3 Productions at the Electric Company, 2512 SE Gladstone, Suite 200, 232-5955, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Feb 7, $12-15

* Wade McCollum
McCollum, who is currently stealing the show as Lancelot in Portland Center Stage's Merchant of Venice, will have to make a mad dash from that performance, down to the waterfront, to make this one. Hopefully he won't be too winded to sing his favorite songs, from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and other sources. Portland Spirit, Meet at Salmon St. Fountain, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 224-3900, 10:45 pm, $16-20


Work For Brains
Comedian Rachel Parenta continues indulging her temp work obsession, having co-written this sketch-comedy show (with Mark Bridges) about bartenders, dead-end office jobs, and... zombies!? Cool. Portland Underground Showbiz Society, at the Back Door Theatre, 4321 SE Hawthorne, 274-7921, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through Feb 21, $10

* Star Can't Dead
The improv/sketch comedy/funny short movie team presents their usually monthly last Tuesday shebang. This month's show features cupid, an annoying pet, and siamese triplets. Jasmine Tree, 401 SW Harrison St, 223-7956, Tues 8 pm, $3

* Okay, Who's In Charge Here?
Nate Halloran and Brad Fortier bring back their improvised show centered around a logging road in southwest Washington, a truly grim place. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $10

* Portland Comedy Competition: FINALS
As the great Al Pacino once said in an extremely cheesy film called Scent of A Woman: "HOO-WAH!" It's the final round of the Portland Comedy Competition! Five finalists have been narrowed down from a field of 20 to perform 10-12 minutes of their best standup material to the tune of $3000 in prize money. HOOOO-WAH! Barracuda, 9 NW 2nd, 8 pm, $10


* Big Real
Performance Works head honcho and all-around good dancer Linda Austin presents a brand new solo work that finds her grappling with the constraints of reality. Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave, 777-1907, Fri-Sun 8 pm, through Feb 15, $7-10