Entry by Entrance

Dead Bird Movement at All City Coffee

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Through March 17.

All City Coffee, in the Tashiro Kaplan building, is a smart place to stage a modern-dance performance. It feels both elegant and spare, with high, concrete ceilings ringed by dentil molding. It is also small enough that an audience of 30 is a sold-out crowd, but its enormous windows allow passersby to watch. Some ogled from the sidewalk during opening night of Entry by Entrance, in which choreographer and dancer Jessie Smith performed short, severe solos, with onstage costume changes between each.

The solos—with live violin and kick-drum accompaniment by Degenerate Art Ensemble's Alex Guy—show off Smith's slight, bendy body in a series of parabolic arcs. In Smith's choreography, everything curves: her spine, her arms, the arches of her feet, and the arch of her eyebrow when she glares, contemptuously, at her audience. Smith dances with an attitude.

Two clowns join Smith for the second half of Entry by Entrance: Ryan Mitchell and Mandie O'Connell of Implied Violence in red tutus and face powder. The clowns gang up on the dancer in a long, slapstick chase. Balloons are popped with kitchen knives. Buckets are stepped in, banana peels slipped on. Faces are hit with dead fish, cherry pie, and many mouthfuls of water. Twice, the music stops and the lights tighten on Mitchell, holding Smith in the air by her neck, quietly strangling her. Then it's back to chasing and spitting. Finally, when the clowns have finished tormenting the dancer, they kiss her on the cheek and sit to ogle at her final solo—for the audience, it's an unsettling metaphor. BRENDAN KILEY

Thrill Me

ArtsWest Playhouse

Through March 24.

Leopold and Loeb's "crime of the century" still influences popular culture—both a sucktabulous Sandra Bullock vehicle (Murder by Numbers) and a very fine Dan Clowes graphic novel (Ice Haven) were inspired by the 1924 crime. Thrill Me, a two-man musical about the relationship between Leopold and Loeb, is a worthwhile addition to the ongoing folk-tale canonization of the boy geniuses who committed the (almost) perfect murder.

It opens in 1958, as Nathan Leopold (Stephen Dolginoff, who also wrote the play and composed the music) is facing a skeptical parole board. Musical parole hearings often involve flashbacks, so Leopold relives his descent into crime with Richard Loeb (John Bartley, evoking the perfect smug spirit of prep-school entitlement). Dolginoff plays Leopold like a giggly love-struck 10-year-old girl, which seems, at first, like jarring caricature, but as they become more intimately connected as lovers and partners in crime, the idea of Loeb and Leopold as dysfunctional top and bottom makes a kind of cockeyed sense.

It would have been nice if the script grabbed the concept of Thrill Me and totally ran for broke, playing it as a dark comedy. There are a few moments of lyrical joy. (The song "Life Plus Ninety-Nine Years" is pretty amazing, as are parts of "Superior," which claims that "Nietzsche doesn't lie" and therefore "we're superior, we're supermen/so say chapters 1 through 10.") The script can't quite let go of its moral compass long enough to embrace the idea of Leopold and Loeb as a doomed love, like in West Side Story, even though the production is strongest when it reaches for that crazy, thrilling effect.PAUL CONSTANT

Big Hunk o' Burnin' Love

Pork Filled Players at Northwest Actors Studio

Through March 24.

I can't imagine anyone hailing from a traditional background—Baptist, Jewish, Korean, whichever—and not liking this peppy play at least a little bit. Poking fun at Thai-American (or, really, any conservative) culture, Big Hunk takes the familiar theme of parents' hysteria over an unmarried child and gives it a metaphoric boost. Twenty-nine-year-old Winston (Jose Abaoag) wants to find the right girl, but Mom and Dad (Leilani Berinobis, Daniel Arreola) believe if he doesn't marry (preferably a Thai girl) before he is 30, he will spontaneously combust and die in an enormous shower of flames. The fictional family curse is a smart bit of invention from L.A.-based playwright Prince Gomolvilas; the breaking of family traditions feels like a violent, life-ending disaster to elders, and can incite anxiety and panic even in the younger generations.

The actors are stoked and loud. Arreola is sharp as Dad, his timing and gestures smooth and practiced. The comedy revolves around one-liners, sitcom style: "The truth will set you free—but first, it will piss you off," says Winston's friend Sylvia as he dives into a panicked countdown to his 30th birthday. In keeping with the Pork Filled Players' sketch-comedy background, Big Hunk consists of 18 short scenes punctuated by blackouts; the set is simply a puffy couch, dressed or undressed to suggest a living room or street corner with a pay phone. While Gomolvilas's script is hardly free from clichés (spare me the monologues about dreams and nightmares), Big Hunk is a fun, fast-paced look at intergenerational angst. STACEY LEVINE