For its 2002-2003 season, Portland Center Stage will mix a couple of chestnuts about difficult women with a West Coast premiere and some less-performed works by significant playwrights.

The productions are:

• 'Much Ado About Nothing,' by William Shakespeare

(Sept. 24-Oct. 20)

Shakespeare's romantic comedy matches a pair of smarty-pants who out-half-wit themselves trying not to fall in love. The cast is large and the action chaotic, with mistaken identities and misfiring tricks.

• 'True West,' by Sam Shepard

(Oct. 29-Nov. 17)

A violent study of the failure of the American dream, Shepard's play traps two brothers into

settling a lifetime score: A Hollywood playwright tries to finish a project while his hoodlum brother torments him. Cast with Hispanic actors in the present.

• 'The Santaland Diaries,' by David Sedaris

'A Christmas Memory,' by Truman Capote

(Dec. 3-Dec. 23)

In 'Diaries,' National Public Radio commentator Sedaris reports from the front lines of Macy's as one of Santa's elves. Wickedly incisive, this is a Christmas story for adults. Paired with it is 'A Christmas Memory,' which offers Capote's childhood reminiscences of his eccentric family in rural Alabama. Think Capote before he had attitude.

• 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' by Edward Albee

(Jan. 14-Feb. 9, 2003)

Albee's wrenching story is a living testament to divorce as a long-married couple torment each other through an alcoholic evening. The production was made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who might not have been acting.

• 'Outrage,' by Itamar Moses

(Feb. 18- Mar. 9, 2003)

A play from the Portland Center Stage festival Just Add Water/West, Moses' story has a college grapple with a $40 million donation, helped by Plato, Galileo, Socrates and Brecht.

• 'Man and Superman,' by George Bernard Shaw

(Mar. 25-Apr. 13, 2002)

Shaw had just married at age 40 when he turned popular opinion upside down with this witty study of women chasing men. It includes a sharp dialogue between an embattled Don Juan and the devil.

Ñ Paul Duchene

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