Opening This Week

StageDirect films fringe productions to be distributed to a wider audience. Their latest project, Straight, is David Schmader's one man riff on gay-conversion therapy. Stage Direct, at the Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 274-1373, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through May 4, $12

The Birthday Party
The play that put Harold Pinter on the map is a fascinating power struggle between a man named Stanley and two mysterious galoots who fuck with his mind. The Profile Theatre Project at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 242-0080, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through May 26, $12-20

Vitriol and Violets: Tales Form The Algonquin Round Table
Tales from the Algonquin Hotel in 1920s New York, where soon-to-be-famous writers and artists met to party down on a regular basis. Cygnet, at the Russell Street Theatre, 116 NE Russell St, 493-4077, Opens Fri, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through May 18, $15

One Week Only

Annual Spring Dance Concert
Dance pieces with African, Cuban, and Brazilian influences by choreographers Susan Davis and Keith Goodman, amongst others. Fir Acres Theatre, Lewis & Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road, 768-7495, Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, $5-8

The Mission
This play presents the intriguing idea that women actually WANT to have sex. Paula Productions, at the Jack Oakes Theater, 2820 NE Sandy Blvd, 274-7921, Thurs 8 pm, Fri-Sat 9 pm, $8-10

Viva La Word
Latin-flavored poetry and performance to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Miracle Theater, 525 SE Stark Street, 236-7253, Sun 2 pm, $10

Portland Taiko Unplugged
Booming Japanese drumming with guest choreography from Minh Tran. Portland Taiko, above the Bridgeport Brewhouse, 1300 NW Northrup, 224-8499, Thurs-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, $15-17

Closing This Week

* Chainsaw Spaceman
The run of this show has been extended until May 4, and that is a wonderful thing. John Breen and Loren Hoskins understand that the best comedy is bred out of characters, not situations. The characters that populate their sketch comedy are not playing the crowd for laughs, but are examining themselves and their problems with real concern and sincerity. It is this sincerity that makes characters, like the farmers who are obsessed with their power tools and the cockney good ol' boys obsessed with the "wee baby Jesus," so very, very funny. One doesn't laugh AT these people, (an expression of hate), one laughs WITH these people, (an expression of love). I love the characters Hoskins and Breen have created. I love Hoskins and Breen. Hoskins & Breen, at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh, 242-0202, Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through May 4, $10

* Dinner With Friends
The idea that the happiest looking couples may be hiding something dark from the world and from themselves is hardly original, but playwright Donald Marguiles has given it a fresh spin by using a divorce between not-so-happy couple, Tom and Beth, as a catalyst for self-analysis between supposedly-happy couple, Gabe and Karen. ART's two and a half hour production of this premise never grows tiresome thanks to Marguiles' insightful dialogue and some fine performances from all four cast members. Artists Repertory Theater, 1516 SW Alder St, 241-1278, Tues-Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through April 28, $15-28

* Fifty Infants
Dance for lovers of dance. Mary Oslund's choreography is so rich with sophisticated creative movement, that for the unseasoned pallate it might have to be viewed in installments. Oslund's dancers work their asses off to keep up with the exuberant flow of ideas and interactions, and the viewer must work as well to simply absorb it all. The pace and tone of the show is frantic and relentless, which is paid for in individuality. Costumes change and slides are utilized, and the four pieces that comprise the show, instead of standing out as individual works, become a blur of complicated interactions and technical wizardry. Definitely impressive, but without any reprieves, and thus ultimately draining to watch. Oslund & Company, at Conduit Dance Studio, 918 SW Yamhill, 221-5857, Fri-Sun 8:30 pm, through April 28, $12-13

That's Infotainment
Improv that is one-half documentary and one-half fictional scenes inspired by the documentary. Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through April 27, $10

Current Runs

A Bicycle Country
Three friends build a raft to escape poverty-riddled Cuba. The Miracle Theater, 525 SE Stark Street, 236-7253, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through May 11, $15

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's greatest acid trip. Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company, 1111 SW Broadway, 288-8400, Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm, through May 19, $11-36

Saved to Blasted
Lightbox continues its string of readings by contemporary British playwrights. This week's featured text is Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis. Lightbox Studio, 1306 NW Hoyt, Suite 407, 231-0839, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, FREE

What the Butler Saw
Farce about a British psychiatrist who runs an asylum and tries to keep up with the demands of his sexually frustrated wife. Let's all pray that terrible fake British accents will NOT be utilized. Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through May 25, $15-19