Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Scene for August 22, 2008 UPDATED

Summer is flying past; it's as if the entire season is caught up in a tropical wind. But Tropical Storm Fay passed us by without disrupting any of the productions here in South Florida.

A Good Review That's Bad

Leading the reviews this week is the Miami Herald's review of Betrayed in the Miami Herald, the current production at GableStage. The reviewer wastes just about half the review reciting the plot, explaining the historical context, and the origin of the materials, all things not actually relevant to a review of a play. Eventually she stops wasting our time and discusses the thing she's supposed to be writing about: this actual production.

The first actual line of critique slips by, almost hidden in seemingly endless exposition of the plot:
'The single female interpreter, Intisar (Ceci Fernandez, whose expressive eyes tell the story), quotes Emily Bronte and dreams of being allowed to ride a bicycle through the streets like her brothers, without being punished for ''immodesty.'''
Does she even understand she's supposed to be telling us about Fernandez's performance and NOT the character she plays? Apparently not, because all the points that are the actual things we want to know occur in an infuriatingly off-hand manner:
'Todd Durkin digs into ... dual unsympathetic roles ...'

'...realistically distasteful is Bill Schwartz as both an ambassador ... and an Iraqi...'
And just as she seems to on the verge of actually reviewing the theatrical production she's supposed to be writing about:
'... the play belongs to Fernandez, Amadeo and Manzelli...'
she quickly goes back to discussing the story, blabbing about the play's casual treatment of geography, and the views of the man who wrote the article the play is based on.

So Betrayed gets an 'A,' but the reviewer gets a 'D.' I can't wait until Christine is back from vacation. There are plays that need reviewing, and apparently the Herald can't find someone to do it right when she's out.

Betrayed runs through September 14 in Coral Gables.

A Bad Review That's Good

Moving on, Brandon K. Thorp reviews Ground Up and Rising's production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot for the Miami New Times. In marked contrast to the Herald's 'review,' Brandon cuts to the chase in the second paragraph:
'Given Last Days' huge ambition, it's a shame the actors outshine the playwright ...'
Ahh, for all I've griped at Brandon in the past, this is a fine review.
'The credits in the program read like a transcript of a ludicrously ambitious director's dream. Elam, Schiavone, and Duncan, along with Carlos Alayeto, Bechir Sylvain, Reiss Gaspard, and Sheaun McKinney — all at the top of the SoFla theater community. I disparage them not at all by noting that some of the night's best performances come from people whose names I've never heard before. I'm thinking especially of David Gallegos and Jenny Lorenzo.'

The boldness and power of their scene was shocking. It was so outsize, so surreal, yet so skillfully rendered and fun that I immediately felt as if I was watching an alternative biblical history from Warner Bros.'
Brandon discusses some of the more effective scenes, and the performances found within. But ultimately, the evening falters as it progresses.
Last Days is set in a courtroom, located for no reason at all in a subway station in Purgatory....Until it deviates from this premise, Last Days is a play of uncommon vitality: a fast-moving Technicolor explosion of ideas, emotion, and heart.

The second act is wrecked by insecure, nervous tinkering — the obvious product of a man without faith in his own work. It's then that Guirgis abandons the courtroom scenario...
Brandon concludes:
'Which isn't to say Last Days failed to touch you. It just didn't happen the way Guirgis intended.'
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot closes this Sunday in Miami.
UPDATED: It's been extended through August 31, according to the Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, in Broward County...

Brandon also had a review in the Broward/Palm Beach New Times. This time, he's reviewing Blowing Whistles at Sol Theatre. In case you didn't know, they are still running Why We Have A Body on Saturday nights. In a fit of ambition, they are running this whole other play on Thursdays and Fridays.

This is the kind of play that invites Brandon to do the kind of writing he's infamous for:
'...a play that ought to be required viewing for any gay man who's ever tripped over his dick while trying to follow his principles.'
Well, he ain't Frank Rich. And isn't that a good thing? Isn't it?
'Nigel is played by Ross Carson, an occasional actor who understands the value of understatement better than most pros. Young Mark is played by 18-year-old Kyle Garcia, who, though talented, could learn from Carson's example. (It's not easy internalizing the fractured personality of a fictional queer teen when you're busy being one yourself, and Garcia has a slight tendency to overact.)

...the one to watch is David Tarryn-Grae... the weariness and uncertainty that creeps into his character's face through the show as he prepares to tolerate yet another intolerable, soul-killing compromise is almost frighteningly perfect.'
Normally, I find that Brandon's reviews tend to contain a little too much...Brandon. And this review is a perfect example of that. But in this case, he makes a valid point with it:
Being a gay man myself, I cannot tell for sure if this or anything else about Blowing Whistles will communicate itself to non-gays. Do straight people make these same wretched compromises? Could an ordinary straight couple imagine having a ménage a trois on their 10th anniversary?
By the way, Brandon, the answer is 'yes.' In 'straight' society, it's called "the seven-year itch."
I find that I don't care. Whatever they might mean to straight people, Blowing Whistles and plays like it (like Why We Have a Body, Two Boys In a Bed, and Unidentified Human Remains) are precisely what make Sol Theatre an indispensable treasure to SoFla's gay population.
Fair enough, Brandon. Fair enough.

Blowing Whistles runs through "mid-September" in Fort Lauderdale.

Limited Short Brief Run Production

Christine Dolen blogs about Art Metrano's Jews Don't Belong on Ladders...An Accidental Comedy, opening tonight and playing through Sunday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

We know Art Metrano as the Amazing Metrano, as Lt. Mauser in the Police Academy movies, and from dozens of appearances in film and television. About 20 years ago, he fell from a ladder, and suffered a critical injury. He first related his experiences at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2001's Art Metrano's Accidental Comedy. The current production is the result of continuing development of that work.

It's being presented in conjuntion with the LEADs (Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability) Conference, currently being hosted by the Broward Center.

It's an amazing story, told by an amazing man. Seriously. Well, not TOO seriously. It plays through this Sunday.


It's your last chance to see Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater production of MIDLIFE: The Crisis Musical. It closes Sunday. I'll be there Friday night to take photos of the show for their archives; say hello - I'll be the one with the camera.

Still Playing

The New Theatre in Coral Gables is running William Shakespeare's As You Like It through September 14.

Finally, The Convertible Girl may or may not be running at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. It's hard to tell from their website. Oh, wait; yes, with a magnifying glass I can just make it out.

Slava's Snowshow at the Arsht Center is still playing through August 31.

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM: THE NEARLY TRUE STORY OF THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS also continues its run at Florida Stage in Manalapan through August 31.

Rising Action Theatre presents Bathhouse: The Musical, through September 7th. You may want to be screamingly gay for this one. Or not.

True Blue is at the The Women's Theatre Project through August 31.


As previously noted, this year's 24 Hour Theatre Project has been postponed. No information yet as to when it will be performed. This event is produced by The Naked Stage at the Actors' Playhouse space in the Miracle Theater.

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