"I never really wanted to be a singer," Sarah Rudinoff explains, and espresso almost shoots out my nose. The idea that she came by those golden vocal cords though anything other than devoted lifelong schooling in some grueling gulag for would-be divas seems rude, if not somehow sinful. But no one ever said talent was fair.

Rudinoff's unique and amazing voice (like a sax that can sing in English) is accountable for at least one-third of the brilliance that illuminates Go There, Ms. Rudinoff's one-woman extravaganza of song, spunk, and sordid stories playing at the Re-bar through May 17. Her generous, heartfelt humor, paired with a remarkable honesty, accounts for the rest; her stage presence is bigger than Jerry Lewis in France, and three times as funny.

Ironically, Rudinoff never necessarily intended to become a comedic tour de force, either. "I wanted to be a 'serious actress,' you know, be all about 'the work.'" She counts Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf's Martha and Othello's Emelia as her dream roles. But against all her intentions, her jazzy croon and penchant for comedy asserted themselves. Today, she is one hell of a singer, and two hells of a comedic actress.

Rudinoff's credits are impressive: She's trained and performed at the world-famous Second City, worked for HBO, and done more Shakespeare than you can shake a bard at. With Seattle's Annex Theatre, she was seen in Hamlet and the world premieres of The Second Greatest Story Ever Told and Derek Horton's Cat-Like Tread. Her first solo show, Broad Perspective (Go There is number two), toured the Adelaide Festival in Australia. In Los Angeles, she performed new plays at the Mark Taper Forum's Second Stage, and with Circle X and Improv Olympic.

But Rudinoff is possibly best known (at least around these parts) for her manly role as Yitzhak, the "squelch drag queen" (a woman playing a man who dresses like a woman) in Re-bar's long-running, much-loved production of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which she costarred in with Go There director Nick Garrison.

Born in Hawaii to a large and ethnically confusing family (ex-Jews, Protestants, Armenians, and an alcoholic or two) and gypsying her way about North America for a decade or so, Rudinoff has lived and performed in every U.S. city that counts, and a few that don't. The aptly titled Go There details her starry-eyed adventures as she moves between Hollywood, Chicago, New York City, and Seattle, searching for fortune and fame and having brushes with bad outfits, support groups, ass-eating romances, 9/11, and Dustin Hoffman.

But the geographic thread that runs through and binds Go There wasn't the only reason she chose that particular title. According to Rudinoff, the title became her personal motto and mantra during writing and rehearsal--a reminder to stretch her artistic boundaries, to take risks, and to keep her tales as true as possible. "Like the promo pictures for the show," she explains, referring to the shots of her bold and buxom au naturel self that grace the show's programs and posters (including a hilarious parody of Madonna's infamous "naked hitchhiker" pose). "Either I was going to go all the way with this or not," Rudinoff says. "So when I considered chickening out on the photos, I'd think, 'Go there... go there...!'"

This self-directed dare was especially important during the show's second act, in which Rudinoff shares the events she encountered in New York City on September 11--a piece that didn't sit well with a few local critics, one of whom deemed her 9/11 reflections "repugnant."

"I wanted a New York story, and that was pretty much the New York story," Rudinoff says. "But I didn't want to do an 'after-the-fact' 9/11 thing, you know--my perceptions in retrospect, after all the facts were in." Rudinoff claims that all her weird, jarring, and sometimes amusing experiences walking through terror-panicked Manhattan--including getting miffed at transportation delays, eating sushi while watching a sad parade of dazed survivors, and obsessing about her outfit--are presented just as they occurred, and weren't edited out, nicey-ed up, or dumbed down to protect sensitive sensibilities.

"Honesty is very important in what I do," she says. "And this is honestly what I went through and was thinking."

Go There plays Thurs-Sat at Re-bar, 1114 Howell St, through May 17. For reservations and info, call 323-0388.