by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & urrounded by laughing/angry women during performances of The Vagina Monologues, male audience members tend to squirm. CenterStage may be producing a collection of monologues called Talking With (May 8-22), but the men can rest easy: The half-dozen actresses in director Tim Behrens' production aren't obsessively gender-specific.

Instead, playwright Jane Martin's characters have more universal concerns on their minds. An elderly woman, for example, protects herself against the dying of the light by surrounding herself with lamps. A cowgirl laments the commercialization of rodeo. Actresses audition neurotically, then fidget in their dressing rooms. A baton twirler draws an analogy between being up in the air with her 'ton and seeing the face of God. A tattooed lady explains what she has learned from pain.

OK, there's the desperate housewife who cleans her kitchen while dressed each day as a different character from the Oz books. But playwright Jane Martin's women aren't all that freaky. And there's a regional connection: Within the theater community, it's an open secret that "Jane Martin" is a pseudonym for Jon Jory, who developed plays like this (and Keely and Du and Anton in Show Business) at the Actors Theater of Louisville and who now works in Seattle as a theater professor at UW.

Martin's miniature plays will be accompanied not by a buffet dinner but your option of making choices off the menu at ella's. So go ahead, order an appletini to go with your salmon cakes, Tuscan pizza or key lime halibut. Both the delicacies and the drama will be served up in manageable portions.

Talking With by "Jane Martin" at CenterStage on Thursdays, May 8-22, at 8 pm, and on Sunday, May 11, at 3 pm. Tickets: $19. Also on Friday, May 9, and on Saturdays, May 10 and May 17, at 8 pm. Tickets: $23. Arrive early for cabaret service and order off the menu at ella's. Visit or call 74-STAGE.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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