Every Thursday, we round up Pay-Whats and other cheap seats at local theaters. Just so’s your weekend is a little easier.

Before we start, remember the general rules: (A) Reservations for these? Not so much. (B) They’re offered on a space-available basis, so have a backup plan. (C) Click each theater name for details and contact info.

Fantastic weekend for taking a chance on something. Known quantities: the WSC shows, which have both gotten good reviews, and the ACA showcase, which is folks with serious chops doing serious work in an intimate space. But the Ariel Dorfman and Enda Walsh plays both look intriguing, so check ’em out—then come back and leave your thoughts in the comments. Here’s what I know about:

  • Picasso’s Closet, Theater J. Dorfman, one of theater’s real heavies, brings the world premiere of his latest play, a fractured meditation on Picasso in occupied Paris; the gambit is that though the painter lived until 1973, life among the Nazis killed his soul. Critics see it next week. Pay-What previews tonight, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; $25 preview Saturday at 8 p.m. At the Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater at the Washington DCJCC, 1529 16th St. NW.
  • U.S.A., The American Century Theater. Jackie Manger directs a stage adaptation of John Dos Passos‘ sprawling trilogy, a saga that weaves historical figures (including the Wright brothers and Isadora Duncan) into a narrative about an empire-builder whose scheming tests the limits of the American spirit. Bruce Alan Rauscher stars. Pay-What preview tonight, Thursday, at 8 p.m. Gunston Arts Center Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington.
  • Bedbound, Solas Nua. How many companies invite you to a happy hour before the show? These guys make a specialty of contempo Irish stuff, and they’ve got real style: The Mai was immensely atmospheric, and Dan Brick and Eric Messner broke hearts in Howie the Rookie. Here, Brick directs Brian Hemmingsen and Solas Nua artistic director Linda Murray in another ball-breaker of a show—”one of the most disturbing, emotionally draining and completely brilliant theatrical experiences imaginable,” quoth the Irish Times—from the word-crazed Dubliner Enda Walsh, author of the gorgeous foulness that was Disco Pigs. Pay-What preview tonight, Thursday, at  7:30 p.m. At DCAC, 2437 18th St. NW.
  • As You Like It and The Cardinal, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting. Graduating class performs Shakespeare’s famous comedy and a little-seen Jacobean ripsnorter by James Shirley. I saw both, and they’re doing really polished work. The shows ($10 suggested donation) alternate through June 24; see web site for schedule and RSVP info. STC rehearsal studio, 507 8th St. SE.
  • The Children’s Hour, Washington Shakespeare Company. Lee Gable directs Lillian Hellman’s classic tragic-lesbians melodrama, with a classically WSC twist: company artistic director Christopher Henley in the Shirley MacLaine role. Bob Mondello sez it’s “hugely effective Southern Gothic melodrama, with a killer of a last scene, and Gable makes sure that every lick of its pain singes the crowd out front.” Pay-What performance Saturdays at 2 p.m through July 2. At Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark Street in Crystal City.
  • Two-Headed, Washington Shakespeare Company. Mormons! Massacres! Two women “coming to terms with the intense nature of their relationship!” (I joke, but it’s one of the most satisfying productions I’ve seen in a while.) Gregg Henry directs Julie Jensen‘s script, starring Melissa Flaim and Lee Mikeska Gardner. Pay-What performance Monday at 8 p.m. through At Clark Street Playhouse, 601 S. Clark Street in Crystal City.