The Invitation
Lightbox Studio, 1306 NW Hoyt, #407
Through Feb 10

About halfway through The Invitation, Orianna Herrman lets out a blood-curdling scream. Lying on her back, her knees propped up, she gives birth to a love child produced from an affair with a lobster. With the air still unsettled, a giant catfish saunters on, center stage, waltzing and mawing to the soothing sounds of Al Green's "Tired of Being Alone." It is an oddly touching and insightful scene, as if Salvador Dali had directed an episode of Ally McBeal, only the main character (Hermann) is full-bodied and darkly beautiful.

Almost a year has passed since the Lightbox Studio (formerly Catamount Theatre) last hosted one of their surreal dance narratives. Their last production used a feverish and dreamy production to capture the anguish of an Irish mother who had lost her four sons in shipwrecks; this time, four dancers address (as directly as possible) the subconscious of loneliness. Director and writer Jason Eksuzian turns Maga's (Hermann) mind inside out, so that her fears, fantasies, and longings populate the cozy Pearl District loft. Upside-down umbrellas float from the ceiling like a Magritte painting, and a brawny six-foot tall lobster aggressively courts Maga.

The narrative zigzags from circus acrobatics and high-spirited gypsy songs to quiet, hypnotic scenes. But the play succeeds because it is more than sensual aesthetics. Cobbled together, the dance numbers spell out a woman's learning to trust her instincts.

Obviously, director Eksuzian has spent a good deal of time contemplating the landscape of dreams. But The Invitation works especially well, because it avoids the pitfall of being unblinkingly artsy. Instead, the slippery texture of the production is nailed by volleys of coy humor; for example, red blinking signs provide literal prompts like "Big Scary Lobster" to each scene.

Like waking from a dream and trying to organize vague images into coherent thoughts, the interaction with the play's narrative is puzzling, tantalizing and--even though it is someone else dream--oddly personal.

The 4th annual Portland Sketch Comedy Festival
Sketch comedy troupes from all over N. America descend on The Siren Theater for 3 glorious nights.