Poke, Babel Fish and Improv Thunderdome This third round of Improv Thunderdome, the three-shows-for-one-cover comedy competition, should again demonstrate to Kansas City just how daring, diverse and unpredictable the art of improv can be. Go at 7 p.m., and you'll be treated to two of the best new troupes in town: Poke, the improvised duet between first-class performers Trish Berrong and Tommy Todd; and Babel Fish, Joe Henley and Nathan Stewart's brainy, allusive, theater-of-the-absurd spectacular, which feels like it should earn you college credit. Both shows Sat., Aug. 30, at Westport Coffee House, 4010 Pennsylvania. For reservations, call 816-678-8886.
Taking Sides and Translations These two absorbing plays for grown-ups, running in repertory together through the end of the month, investigate the failure of conquering forces to comprehend the world of the conquered. They also offer yet more evidence that the upstart Actors Theatre of Kansas City is capable of achieving ambitions on a shoestring that bigger theaters can't with IVs jacked into million-dollar endowments. The superbly acted Taking Sides (reviewed in our Aug. 21 issue) pits Mark Robbins as a U.S. military investigator searching for Nazis in postwar Berlin against Gary Holcombe as German bandleader Wilhelm Furtwängler. At issue: How could Furtwängler thrive as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic without having sold his soul to the Third Reich? Brian Firel's Translations (reviewed in our July 17 issue), meanwhile, is a seriocomic examination of England's campaign to "standardize" Irish names, places and the Gaelic tongue itself. Directed by Robbins and featuring a fiery turn from Katie Gilchrist, Translations is as much love story and small-town slice of life as it is treatise, but the ideas are there, and to an America embroiled in overseas madness, they sear. Both plays through Aug. 31 at Union Station's City Stage, 18 West Pershing, 816-235-6222.