opening this week

Darkstep and Dawning
Fresh off his stint in ART's marvelous The Shape of Things, Neil Starbird stars in this new play about a surgeon, a young man, and a girl named Fanny. Stark Raving, at the Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Opens Fri, runs Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 7 pm, through Jan 11, $10-$15

Hot damn! Amber Martin, the cofounder of the House of Cunt, the weirdest sketch comedy troupe in Portland, is back with a brand new solo show! She'll wail, she'll croon, she'll shimmy, and she will crack your shit up because she is CRAZY! Stark Raving, at the Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh, 232-7072, Opens Sat, runs Fri-Sat 10:30 pm, through Jan 11, $12

one week only

Family Ties
Staged readings of Katherine Snodgrass' Haiku, and Percy Granger's Vivien. Readers Theatre Repertory, at the Blackfish Gallery, 420 NW 9th Ave, 295-4997, Fri-Sat 8 pm, $8

closing this week

A Christmas Twist
Dickens' Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol collide in this send-up to the great novelist. Triangle Productions, at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Dec 15, $17-$23

Curse of the Great Eleven
Part black comedy, part mystery, and all the way freaky, Eleven centers on the descendants of a 1920s Californian cult that committed mass murder. Sowelu Theater at the Back Door, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 230-2090, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through Dec 15, $7-$15

Steel Magnolias
Play about women who congregate at a salon. May or may not be as stomach curdling as the film version with Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts. Magdelyn Theatre Company, 40 NW 5th, 310-1628, Thurs-Fri 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Dec 14, $10-$12

current runs

Antiques Improv Show
Just like Antiques Road Show, the audience members at Improv Show bring objects to be "appraised" by the two "experts." The two "appraisers" do exactly like real life appraisers, except that they're obviously not actually experts and have to make up the information for each object on the spot. It's a compelling premise in terms of audience participation and also in terms of the improvised "mixed media" tricks that the appraisers utilize to get the rest of the cast involved. JWS Brody Theater, 1904 NW 27th Ave, 224-0688, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 21, $10, $9 with item to be "appraised" during the show

Following in the tradition of the utterly famous Frogz, here comes a brand new smorgasbord of mask, illusion, spacemen, and hungry anteaters. Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave, 231-9581, Wed-Sat 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 1:30 pm, Sun 5:30 pm, through Dec 29 , $14-$24

Honey in the Horn
Director/playwright/set designer Michael Lasswell is clearly in love with the source material for his latest production, H.L. Davis' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the Old West, Honey in the Horn. Lasswell seems to have adapted almost every word of the original text to the stage. The result is a frantic barrage of story as Lasswell and his talented cast try their best to squeeze every last plot turn, character, and scene change into the three-hour running time. It's incredibly ambitious, but only mildly entertaining simply because there's too much of it. JWS Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder St, 241-9807, Tues-Thurs, Sun 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Dec 22, $15-30

Milagro on Calle 401k
Miracle on 34th Street gets a face lift in the Miracle's version, which takes place in Silicon Valley and features Santa Claus on trial for fraud. The Miracle Theater, 525 SE Stark Street, 236-7253, Fri-Sat 8 pm, through Dec 21, $12

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
It's easy to see why Someone to Watch Over Me would appeal to a young director. 1. A show about three hostages in a Beirut prison requires minimal staging accoutrements. 2. A director gets to orchestrate heavy-duty emotional drama as the prisoners combat boredom and madness. 3. As the captors are Arab and the prisoners American, Irish and English, the show is politically relevant to boot. But do you really want to watch some men chained to the stage, literally and loudly fighting insanity for over two and a half hours? No, no you don't. Not until Frank McGuinness's script is cut down at least 45 minutes and the actors get rid of all those melodramatic pauses underscoring supposed moments of clarity. ANNA SIMON Lightbox Studios, at Ohm, 1800 E Burnside, 231-0839, Fri-Sun 8 pm, through Dec 22, $10


This hodgepodge of high-budget technical wizardry has been extended. Do Jump! at the Echo Theatre, 1515 SE 37th, 224-8499, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 3 pm, through Dec 29, $15-22