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Antics derail subway ride

Circle of Fire asks an intriguing question, then flubs the answer

The Portland Subway' is interactive theater at its most invasive.

The effort, courtesy of Circle of Fire Productions, asks the intriguing question: What if Portland had a subway system? Illogical storytelling and philosophical mumbo jumbo then derail the production, failing to answer the question posed.

Attempts to elicit audience participation are mean-spirited and uncomfortable. A talking mime storms up to an audience member and asks, 'Do you like mimes?' Before his target can even muster a response, the mime screams, 'Well, I hate you, too!' And a deranged woman runs around spewing premonitions Ñ or are they fortunes? Hard to say.

The show's few tolerable moments take place as the crowd filters into the theater. Two actresses in garish makeup, speaking in maniacally chipper voices, greet you. If hell had stewardesses, this is what they'd look like. Then they invite you to partake in free wine, beer and soda pop.

Meanwhile, a young man creates reverberations on his didgeridoo while the guests wait to board the 'subway.'

Kiss this ambient mood goodbye when the stewardesses round up the audience and lead them to a rectangular space delineated by white sheets. As Bette Davis says in 'All About Eve,' 'Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night.'

Once the 'train' departs from the station, actors emerge and announce 'stations' along the route, stopping at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Rose Quarter and Burnside Street.

A ragtag assortment of characters hop aboard, trapping the viewer in an unintelligible web of Eastern philosophy, absurd humor and melodrama.

The cast's six actors, to their credit, give it their all. But as directed by Sherry Okamura, their voyage is so aimless and confused that their efforts come to naught.

'The Portland Subway' clocks in at 40 minutes long, so the viewer at least can see the light at the end of the tunnel.