Portland may be best known for beer, bicycles and sustainably raised bacon, but this Pacific Northwest city has a vibrant professional theater scene, too. We’ve got the scoop on three of the Rose City’s local stages, plus tips on where to eat and drink near the theaters and where to stay after the show ends.
Artists Repertory Theatre
Founded in 1982, Artists Repertory Theatre is Portland’s longest-running professional theater company. On stage through May 24 is comedic drama 4000 Miles, by hot American writer Amy Herzog. Next up (May 26-June 21) will be The Liar, a farcical comedy adapted from the work of French playwright Pierre Corneille. The eight shows in Artists Rep’s 2015-2016 season, which begins in September, range from a world-premiere musical, Cuba Libre, to five contemporary plays and two 20th-century classics, William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker and Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Skin of Our Teeth.
Artists Repertory Theatre’s distinctive red building is located on downtown’s western edge. Fortunately, Driftwood Room, the classic 1950s-style cocktail lounge at the movie-themed, Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel deLuxe, is located nearby for pre- or post-performance drinks. Theatregoers might try the Smoking Gun (bourbon, scotch, allspice dram, lemon and basil syrup) or the Ginger Rogers (vodka, ginger liqueur, lemon, rhubarb bitters and lavender syrup). When you’re ready to call it a night, check out the 500-plus black-and-white movie photos that line the hallways on the way to the guest rooms.
Third Rail Repertory Theatre
This up-and-coming professional company produces thought-provoking material. The final production of the season is the mysterious Static (through May 24), which is written by Dan Rebellato and performed bilingually in both English and sign language. For this show and all of the upcoming 10th-anniversary productions, Third Rail Rep will be in residence at the Imago Theatre, in the city’s rapidly gentrifying Southeast quadrant.
Have an early dinner around the corner from the theater at Le Pigeon, where you might find contemporary French-inspired bistro dishes, like beef cheek bourguignon paired with époisses risotto or duck breast with grilled strawberry sauce. We’d also suggest catching a cab to the rooftop Departure Restaurant at The Nines, Portland, an art-filled Four-Star hotel where you can take your own curtain call over pan-Asian share plates (see miso cod or crispy pork belly) and libations like the Siam Queen (rye, Campari and basil drinking vinegar) or Indochine (Grey Goose La Poire, crème de cassis and prosecco).
Portland Center Stage
In a dramatically restored 1891 stone building that was once the annex to the local armory, Portland’s largest producing theater presents at least 10 shows annually between September and June. Still to come this season on the 590-seat U.S. Bank Main Stage is Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain (through June 21), a production where the concept of time is turned upside down; the first act is set in 1995 while, in the second, the actors go back to 1960 and play their own characters’ parents. Running through June 14 in the 199-seat Ellyn Bye Studio is The Lion, an original musical written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer. For the upcoming 2015-2016 season, look for new productions of classics like the toe-tapping musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ (October 24-November 29, 2015) and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (May 14-June 12, 2016), and more contemporary works, including Stupid Fucking Bird (February 27-March 27, 2016), playwright Aaron Posner’s reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.
After a PCS show, you’ve got a playbill full of choices for drinks and snacks in the surrounding Pearl District or nearby downtown. At Chizu, a newly opened cheese bar modeled after a Japanese sushi shop, order omakase (chef’s choice) to sample a range of perfectly ripe cheeses from the Pacific Northwest and farther afield. It’s also just a short trek to ever-so-stately The Palm Court at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Benson Hotel, where you can sip your cocktails — and discuss the play you just saw — beneath the crystal chandeliers of a bygone era, before heading upstairs to your spacious junior suite.