Meathook: A Melodrama
Open Circle Theater
Through May 21.

In the second act of Meathook: A Melodrama, the zesty and ridiculous new musical from Open Circle, the arrogant antihero Dr. Harlan Handsome (Sam Read) is forced to chop off his own hand, occasioning glorious arcs of fake blood and the unveiling of a hilariously lumpy stump. The good doctor then thrusts his arm into a nearby stove to cauterize the wound. There is a yelp and a satisfying sizzle, and then--in a triumph of low-budget effects--a cloud of steam rises from the embers. Gratuitous snippets from the Bible and Yeats precede this scene, and grotesque Texas Chainsaw-style cannibalism follows it, but there's nothing like a tasteless Sam Raimi reference to make musical theater go down smooth.

Meathook: A Melodrama, which is a collaboration between Matt Fontaine (lyrics and direction), Tamara Paris (book and direction), and Tom Prince (music), isn't all brilliant genre pastiche. The first act starts slowly, as one after another artlessly painted bed sheet skids by in a rather sad substitute for scenic design. Puzzling plot digressions, such as an abortion-rights protest at a faculty tennis club, distract from the hokey horror riffs that go so well in the second act. The music, while accomplished, is a little schizophrenic, and the performances range from winning and boisterous (Sam Read, Lisa SanPhillippo) to excessively quiet and a little lost (Rachel Hynes).

But once the blood starts spurting, and such breathless lines as "Debbie, do the biodynamic feedback!" get rolling, you couldn't ask for a more entertaining evening. Even the smallest touches, like a brief love scene between a couple of hospital orderlies, are tenderly executed (so to speak). The gross-out action and clumsy end-rhymes twist together into a predictably thrilling climax, and the untidy first act is all but banished. ANNIE WAGNER

Miss Saigon
5th Avenue Theatre
Through April 30.

I have a bias against the 5th Avenue Theatre. Actually, I have two.

First, the theater itself. While it's certainly gorgeous to look at, the 5th Avenue was intended for film and, as a sideline, vaudeville. The seating is designed for an audience that would spend most of its time looking up at a screen, and from most of the tightly packed seats on the main floor, you get a better view of the backs of other audience members' heads than you do of the stage. In the front of the house, you can only see the performers from the knees up; at the back of the main floor, the top half of the stage is completely obscured.

Second bias: I'm a musical-theater fan and, as a direct consequence, I avoid seeing musical theater in Seattle. After staring at the animated remains of a dozen or so touring productions of threadbare musicals over the years, I resolved to save my pennies and fly to New York whenever I needed to see a show.

So in all honesty I wasn't expecting much when I sat down to watch Miss Saigon, the pop opera loosely based on Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Not being a fan of either the show's venue or its creators (Miss Saigon is by the same pack of French dudes who inflicted Les Misérables on an unsuspecting world), I warned my companion that she would probably have to sit through the second act alone.

And then something miraculous happened. Not only did Miss Saigon refrain from sucking, it was truly wonderful--and I'm not grading on the "wonderful-for-Seattle" curve. This production is sung beautifully, it's thoroughly moving, and I wept like a baby at the end. Broadway vet Emy Baysic (Kim) puts the audience through the wringer with her heartbreaking performance as the doomed Vietnamese ho, and local wunderkind Louis Hobson (again, no concessions for the hometown) was born to play Chris, the American GI who knocks Kim up.

A homegrown, knockout production of a Broadway musical is such a rarity in Seattle that any fan of the genre would be foolish to miss this Miss Saigon. Go, go, go. DAN SAVAGE

threeCompany at Freehold's East Hall Theatre
Through April 30.

For an evening of dance-theater vignettes incorporating doors, doorStories has an awfully domesticated notion of its chosen theme. The first duet, by Jessica Jobaris and John Paulsen, is called "Eggs and Toast," and once the door bit is over, it's about breakfast. She thinks she cooks his eggs just the way he likes them. He disagrees.

Miscommunication-inspired movement ensues, and the further the dance gets from the theme, the more interesting it becomes. The voice-over narration gets more and more hyperbolic, proposing that the dancers perform, for example, 18 backflips and 14 front-handsprings; they instead execute stationary abbreviations of those feats. It's hardly groundbreaking, but it's elegantly performed and concise. The final work, "Requiem," makes use of all the company members, and branches out into more complex terrain. It asks what kind of a relationship we form when we wait silently alongside a stranger and hypothesizes about how posture might summon memories. But it still doesn't have anything to say about doors. ANNIE WAGNER