Sunday, August 31, 2008

Admin: Side Bar Changes

Since Mosaic has removed its blog, and the Theatre League hasn't updated its blog in over a year, I've removed those feeds from the sidebar. I found the lack of updates to the Theatre League feed frankly a little embarrassing. "What? They're still plugging the 2007 Theatre Festival?!?"

They've been replaced with feeds from Playbill and Theatre Mania; while these feeds are not specific to South Florida, I thought readers might enjoy the convenience.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Scene for August 29th, 2008

Here it is, the end of August, the end of Summer, and the beginning of my vacation. But don't worry, we'll keep you informed!


The Herald's Christine Dolen is back from her vacation, and delivers her take on The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Ground Up and Rising. And boy, is this an improvement over her stand-in! She starts off by telling us what we want to know from a review:
Given the 15-actor cast size and economics of small theater, the production is heading into he final weekend of a too-short run. Do, if you love good acting and theater that gives your gray matter a jolt, make haste to Kendall.
She immediately separates the characters from the actors portraying them, while still informing us of both:
The Devil's Advocate is Yusef El-Fayoumy (a flamboyant Carlos Alayeto), a butt-kissing prosecutor whose last name is gleefully mispronounced ''El Fajita'' (by the judge) and ''El Flamingo'' (by Satan himself). Defending Judas, arguing for redemption and forgiveness, is Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (the intense Kameshia Duncan), a passionate agnostic.
This show has been extended through this Sunday; take the chance!

New Theatre in Coral Gables has mounted As You Like It in its intimate space in the shadow of Merrick Place. The small company has picked up some renown over the years for its treatment of Shakespeare, and not just because they are the only professional theater (outside the two Festival companies) in South Florida attempting to do it on a regular basis.

This week, we have reviews in two of the three major newspapers.

First, we have the Herald's Christine Dolen review. And while she enjoyed it, she felt it wasn't a fulfilling as it might have been:
As You Like It, adapted by artistic director Ricky J. Martinez and staged by Roberto Prestigiacomo, features a cast of 14 (huge by small regional theater standards), some nicely detailed performances and an array of colorful costumes that almost make up for a barren shell of a set.
Me, I'll point out that Shakespeare didn't go in for scenery either. To my view, New Theatre hasn't cheaped out on scenery so much as returned to the roots of Elizabethan production values. But then, the Globe's bare stage was a lot more elegant than New Theatre's humble rostrum.

Though a few of the actors could be accused of scenery chewing (if there were any scenery to chew), director Prestigiacomo gets solid performances from the leads -- Randolph and Neal are more-than-capable veterans of New Theatre's forays into the Shakespearean canon -- along with effective comedic turns from Clint Hooper as the dig-my-melancholy Jaques, Odell Rivas as a foppish Le Beau, Wayne E. Robinson as the long-suffering Adam and, particularly, Robinson as the frisky Touchstone.

Burgess plays Orlando as a standard-issue hero, easily handling the language and his character's lovesick state. Girardin, who could stand to crank up the volume a bit, is nonetheless an enchanting Rosalind -- smart, strong, fleetingly vulnerable and altogether the sort of woman who could make not just Orlando, but anyone believe in love at first sight.

The Sun-Sentinel has Bill Hirshman's take on As You Like It; he also gives it a thumbs up - with caveats;
...the New Theatre's production of the romantic comedy As You Like It is recommended as a pleasant evening — with asterisks. Meet it halfway and you'll be entertained.

While the cast members' ability to navigate the Bard's verbiage is wildly variable, this production underscores the brilliance and beauty of Shakespeare's quicksilver wordplay while usually (but not always) keeping it accessible to modern ears.
Hirshman notes that it's always difficult to handle Shakespeare if you haven't had the classical training so often eschewed by today's acting programs. It's not that Shakespeare is ignored, but that style is not a major focus of most programs.
The overall effort is not enthralling and, as always, it helps to read a plot summary before you go. But be assured, all's well that ends well in this midsummer night's dream.
As You Like It runs through September 14 in Coral Gables.


Brandon K Thorp is writing for the Miami New Times this week, and he tells us about BETRAYED at GableStage. Sadly, Brandon has forgotten that he's supposed to be writing about this particular production, and not doing a literary analysis of the script. Yes, the script is important, and the story is worth examining; but the central issue of a theatre review is what this production has done with them: do they convey the intentions of the playwright? Do they illuminate the roles and bring them to life? Do they mine the play of all its riches, or do they miss crucial points?

The first glimmer of a review comes 2/3 of the way down the page:
It is odd to witness joy against a backdrop such as Lyle Baskin's dark, metallic set, which is all ugly walls, chainlink fences, plastic chairs, and cheap tables. But for a while, the Iraqis' excitement overpowers their surroundings.
So... does that mean the set design is effective? Not? Is it a clever metaphor? All we know from this about the set is that it was ugly. What we don't know is if it was bad thing or a good thing. The excitement of the Iraqis may have overwhelmed their surroundings in Iraq, but what about the actors in this production? It's not a given that they are one and the same unless that specific point is made. Which it isn't.

He eventually slips in the only adjective relevant to the show he was watching: of the translators is getting a polygraph test from an angry security officer (Todd Allen Durkin, in his most intense performance since Thom Pain)
Ok, Durkin is intense... in which role? The rest of the paragraph deals with script, not performance or production. Maybe the review will start on page two. Let's see...nope. We're boned. Brandon left the review out of his review. All we get is stuff about the script, about the story, nothing telling about the actual production by GableStage. He mentions some people and the parts they played, but fails to mention if they played them well or badly, and we learn that Lyle Baskin designed a "darkly metallic" set. Two pages, and that's all we get.

Now maybe, what we're seeing in this second review that utterly fails to mention the actual production in meaningful terms, is that the direction, action, and setting fit so perfectly that even supposedly professional reviewers can't see where the compelling script ends and the compelling performances begin. Maybe.

But it would be sure nice if either Brandon or Eileen would have actually SAID that. It's what they're paid to do. Instead, they've done little more than describe a script and recite the cast list from the program. Well, OK, we know that Durkin was "intense."

Last Chance!

Slava's Snowshow at the Arsht Center closes this Sunday, August 31.


This is the final weekend to see True Blue is at the
The Women's Theatre Project.

From the Theatre with the Worst Website in Florida.

It's official: Broward Stage Door's Website sucks ass. Not only can't you find what's playing, you can't even find out who's working there. Back when Ground Up And Rising only had a MySpace page, we could find out more about them.

Hey David Torres: fix your freaking website already! The picture of your season poster doesn't cut the mustard. If you want people to come to see shows, we have to be able to tell what's playing without pulling out a microscope.

Thanks to Eileen, who is in the show, I can say that The Convertible Girl is definitely running at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. And with a microscope, I can see that it's running through October 22.

And thanks someone pointing out that Stage Door has two theaters out there in deep suburbia, I discover that they're opening Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? I imagine there are all sorts of people in it, someone directing it, and so on. But I guess it's a secret or something.

From the Theatre with the Second Worst Website in Florida.

It's Naked Stage. But they have no money and no staff (or at least, a lot less of either than Stage Door.) Still, it would be nice if their own homepage explained that their 24 hour Theatre Festival has been postponed, and why, and when it's going to be presented, and if it will be at the same place or somewhere else, rather than leave it to Christine Dolen to report it in her blog. We love you, and respect you, and support you, and yes, even cherish you; now update your darn site. That's what it's for.

But at least we can read the date it DIDN'T happen...


Bathhouse, the Musical, at Rising Action Theatre, through September 7th.

Sol Theatre is going repertory; it's held over Why We Have A Body ( a show recommended by two out of three critics) on Saturdays through September 13th, and Blowing Whistles on Wednesdays and Fridays through September 12th. (Do we dare ask what happens on Thursday Nights up there?)

Casting Call

Co-Contibutor Conundrum Stages is holding auditions for their next reading: see their blog (in our side bar) for details.

Fixin 2 Rain needs four male non-union dancers for its upcoming run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Be aware that this is an overtly Christian production. Contact them via their website.

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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

24 Hour Theatre Festival Postponed

According to Christine Dolen's blog:
The 24-Hour Theatre Project has been postponed. The event involving playwrights, actors and directors from numerous companies was to have taken place Sunday and Monday at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables. Antonio Amadeo, whose Naked Stage is the company behind the collaboratively creative fundraise, said Tuesday that the decision to delay was simple: "This is just a fundraiser...Jack was a friend to the whole South Florida theater community, and his contributions to the growth of our theater family were extraordinary.''

Jack Zink; Good-night, Sweet Prince.

Jack Zink lost his struggle with cancer yesterday, Monday August 18, 2008. He was 61 years old. Somehow, in the midst of all the tropical storm coverage, his death slipped by almost unannounced. Fortunately, Theatre Row didn't miss it; there is a story in the Sun-Sentinel, also. Christine Dolen has also written about it in her blog.

It's hard to imagine South Florida Theatre without Jack Zink there, at least for me. He was already 'the man' at the Sun-Sentinel when I moved into Florida in 1985. Back then, the "big three" was Jack Zink, Christine Dolen, and Caroline Jack of the Palm Beach Post.

While those of us onstage would be aprehensive when Christine or Caroline were in the audience, most of us looked forward to Jack; not that he wouldn't pan a show, but his reviews tended to balance the good against the bad. Even while noting the shortcomings of a production, he would always note a performance that worked in a show otherwise mired in confusion or chaos. And even if a show was beyond any praise, his writing at least made the review a good read.

Not only was he one of South Florida's most ardent reporters, he is the man behind the Carbonnell Awards. He founded South Florida's answer to the Tony Awards in 1976, and was actively involved in every production, including the most recent awards.

As much as any artistic director or producer, Jack Zink was a guiding force in South Florida theatre. He will be sorely missed; his death leaves a huge vacuum in coverage of theatre in South Florida. We are poorer for his absence.

A public memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25 at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale.

Memorial donations can be made to St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 2250 SW 31st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 or to the Carbonell Awards, P.O. Box 14211, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302-4211.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sightings: Tim Bennett

Scenic Designer and Caldwell Theatre's Technical Director Tim Bennett appears in a Sun-Sentinel photo gallery for Tropical Storm Fay.

He was photographed outside a Delray Beach Home Depot, gathering some last-minute supplies.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On the Art of Criticism

Recently, a friend was in the other room, reading this blog on her computer. Suddenly she burst out laughing: "My god; you're reviewing the REVIEW?!?" She shook her head and said something to the effect of "it's about time SOMEBODY did it!"

Reviewing theatre critics isn't actually my purpose. Do I do it? Sure I do. I read a lot of theatre reviews. I can't say I read them all, but I do read the ones who have the most influence, and the ones who have the greatest understanding of what's going on in our South Florida theatre scene. It's a critical part of bringing you this blog.

There has always been a love/hate relationship between those creating theatre and those writing reviews of what's been created. And it goes both ways; as much as the artists resent the possibility of a bad review they crave the good ones: and with the possible exception of Frank Rich, no theatre critic endures a performance simply so they can trash it.

It's a symbiotic arrangement; without actors, directors, designers, playwrights et. al., theatre critics would have nothing to do. And without the critics, without their reviews and stories and commentary, we who produce theatre would have no audience.

You'll note that I use the word "critic," and not the weaselly P.C. term "reviewer." Somewhere in the last few decades, people have become afraid of criticism. It's gained a wholly undeserved negative connotation. Perhaps it was in reaction to the power that a critic can wield. "Criticize" literally means "to consider the merits and demerits, and judge accordingly." "Review" is far more passive; "a general survey, "an evaluation," and "a retrospective."

Producers have long lamented the power of the critic's bully pulpit; Frank Rich could kill a show by giving it a bad review, and did. Those of us who bring the work to the stage have no forum to defend the merits of our work. Nobody comes to us unless they buy a ticket, and they don't buy them if critics say it's not worth the price.

And newspaper publishers resent that power, too. They don't like the constant badgering from producers to get a critic to opening night, they don't like the complaints about the placement and/or timing of the review. The publishers hate the fact that theatre relies not on advertising, but reviews, to get the word out about their plays. Newspapers don't make money on reviews. It's a slap in the face to publishers when we tell them that we must have the critic write a story about our show in order to promote the show. All the publisher sees is the paycheck going out. Content doesn't bring revenue in like advertising does. And the cold reality is that only a vanishingly small number of people buy the papers in order to read reviews of plays.

But whether or not reviews are a more effective marketing tool than actual advertising is a whole other discussion. THIS is a discussion of theatre criticism.

In the decades since the end of World War II, there has been a drastic change in the tone of our national news, and it is due in no small part to a shift in our basic approach to journalism. In an attempt to make news reports more factual, there has been a push for complete objectivity. The new standard for news is to have no opinion outside of the Editorial page. "Just the facts."

The problem is that this makes for utterly worthless reviews of ANY artistic endeavor. The arts, including theatre, can only be discussed meaningfully in subjective terms. Beyond all the objective discussion of technique and scholarship and production value, ultimately the theatre patron wants to know if the play was enjoyable; a subjective value.

There's a further layer of complexity; everyone's tastes are different. And everyone knows this, apparently, except for newspaper editors. They keep trying to do away with a permanent and designated critic. "It's just another news story," they say. "All we need is the story of going out to see the play."

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

We need for each paper to have a single voice, a defining point of view, in their reviews of our art. It does not matter if that point of view is the same as ours, but it's crucial that it is constant. That's because theatre patrons - and other arts patrons - understand a particular critic may have different tastes or standards than the patron; but over time, the patron will be able to understand the relationship between the critic's taste and their own.

Theatre critics are NOT unbiased; they CAN'T be. But we come to understand their biases. And we can make our decisions accordingly.

After years in the business, those of us who put plays on a stage can predict with reasonably certainty which critics will write reviews that tend to endorse the show, and which critics will tend to pan the show. And it doesn't always have anything to do with whether or not the show is any good. It often depends on the specific agendas of the critics.

There's a long time critic whose agenda is to encourage producers to take greater risks, and to stop staging "the same old stuff." This critic's reviews may not outright slam a big old book musical, but they will always make more allowances for performances if it's on something new or daring. And this person will not necessarily give a thumbs up to a new show if the script is weak and the direction is poor and the quality is low, but over time you begin to see that this person's negatives on an old standard may not be quite the black marks as they might otherwise be.

Does that mean I don't read their reviews, or give them merit? Far from it; I know their bias, and take it from there.

But this is why I'm so hard on random reporters standing in for a reviewer; it's not that I doubt they can write a great review, or that their review is accurate. There's nothing personal about it at all. It's that because they are unknown, they have utterly no value to me as a scale.

You see, I know what Christine Dolen or Jack Zink or Hap Erstein have said about shows that I have either seen or actually worked on. I don't know anything about a one-timer. I have no record to balance their opinions with. And that makes those reviews fairly worthless to me. It's like suddenly reporting the temperature in a made-up scale; 'today will reach a high of fibraleem over goramix!' We don't know what it means, however sincerely it is presented to us.

Theatre critics can not, should not, and must not be treated as simply a warm body to send out. Theatre review - ART review - depends entirely on the observer. It's not like football, where all you have to do is keep score. There is no objective scale to rely on. We need to be able to judge the messenger to determine the value of the message.

This is also why I complain when a critic fails to communicate how they felt about the play. A few weeks ago, Brandon responded to such a complaint:
"When discussing a piece of art of any kind, the most boring question you can ask or answer is "Did you like it?" It's boring because it's meaningless. If you like or don't like something and say so, it says nothing about the piece of art under discussion -- it only says something about your own circumscribed tastes. Better to say what a thing is than to say how much you liked it/didn't like it/loved it/hated it/whatev."
Brandon's journalism instructors would be so proud. That's a textbook response. It's the kind of emasculated drivel that has become the current standard of journalism.

But Brandon is wrong, and so are his instructors. The point of art, of ANY art, is to evoke an emotional response from the viewer, period. What the thing actually is is completely and utterly irrelevant, all that matters is how it affects you.

When I goaded Brandon by repeating "did you LIKE it," I wasn't actually trying to find out if he actually LIKED it. I was trying to find out how it made him feel.

We go to the theatre to be transformed; we want to be engaged, we want to be stimulated, and when we leave the theatre, we want to have a new understanding of the world around us, however slight. Maybe all we get out of the evening is an escape, or a tune that we hum for a few days. Maybe we gain an understanding of a difficult situation. Maybe all of that, or none of it.

But we turn to the critics, and we expect an answer. Not "what was the play about," or even "who was in it?" No, all that we ask of them is this:

"Were you affected?"

Everything else is mere detail.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Scene for August 15th, 2008

We've reached the middle of August; the Dog Days of Summer are officially behind us, and Tropical Storm Fay is in our future. But the plays keep coming!


The Miami Herald reviews True Blue at The Women's Theatre Project. It reads like most high school theater reviews, a typical neophyte mess wherein the reviewer outlines the story, and describes the characters, and makes a few insipid comments (do we really need to be told that the characters are "dimensional in their own right?" What does the even mean?) She goes on to tell us that "the camaraderie" is great, "....but that it fails to build on that foundation."

But it's obvious to the reviewer that the sheer volume of talent is all that salvages the evening; I'd watch Pamela Roza read the phone book, quite honestly. Add Angie Radosh, Laura Turnbull, and Patti Gardner, and it's going to be worth watching.

As is becoming their custom, the Sun-Sentinel sent out someone to review a play, but hid the review away from prying eyes. I say that because if they had a review, you'd think they'd post it in the Stage section, along with the uh, and But no, it's not in what the Sun-Sentinel's sorry excuse for an editorial staff considers its rightful place, it's in the Entertainment section, with a link that makes it look like a promo piece instead of a review. Jeesh, I hate the Sun-Sentinel!

But I found the review. It's by Mary Damiano, and it's one of her better efforts. It is short, but concise.
"O'Neill-Butler has crafted a compelling story, but like most new works, it could use some tweaking. Character development could be stronger andmore assured. While the second act veers into territory too precious for its own good, the impressive cast manages to sell even the most maudlin moments. In addition to delivering fine and funny performances, they make a tight ensemble."
This quote comprises nearly a quarter of the review. One suspects that an overly-zealous editor hacked away the rest of it. God, I hate the Sun-Sentinel.

I know I give him a lot of grief, but this week, Brandon K. Thorp of the Palm Beach/Broward New Times gives us the most cogent look at True Blue.
"True Blue's lack of specificity creeps into every aspect of the play, most severely in terms of character development. We seldom see these women do anything that defines them..."


The New Theatre in Coral Gables opens William Shakespeare's As You Like It. They've become well-known for their summer Shakespeare offerings. It opened last night, and runs through September 14.

GableStage, also in Coral Gables, presents the world premiere of BETRAYED tomorrow night. Playwright George Packer based his play on his interviews with Iraqi interpreters. It won the 2008 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play for it presentation at the Culture Project in New York City, but this is the play's first production by a theatre company. It's also this week's Critic's Pick in the Herald.

A third opening night; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot opened tonight at Ground Up and Rising's usual home at Miami-Dade Community College's Kendall campus.

Finally, The Convertible Girl may or may not be opening at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. I think I saw an ad for it in the Sun-Sentinel, but it doesn't seem to be on their website. So you may or may not want to check it out!


Caldwell Theatre's critically acclaimed production of DOUBT closes this Sunday, August 17th. You don't often get a second chance to see a production in South Florida; so don't miss it.


Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater production of MIDLIFE: The Crisis Musical continues through August 24.

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.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Scene For August 8, 2008

This is going to be short and sweet, as I am in the middle of moving from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.


These are the summer doldrums, and even now we have plays opening; this week's Miami Herald Critic's Pick is True Blue, at The Women's Theatre Project. It opens tonight, and runs through August 31. And last night Rising Action Theatre Company opened something called Escorts, The Musical.


Sol Theatre Project's extended run of Why We Have A Body runs through this Sunday.

Stage Door Theatre's held-over ZERO HOUR also concludes this sunday.

SOUVENIR - a Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins
, will finish its run at Palm Beach DramaWorks on Sunday.


Caldwell Theatre's critically acclaimed production of DOUBT continues its limited run through August 17th.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater production of MIDLIFE: The Crisis Musical continues through August 24.

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.

I'll fill in more as I have time; feel free to post stuff I missed in the COMMENTS section, and I'll try to move it up top.

RED TIDE at the Minnesota Fringe: UDPATED

The show is tomorrow and Saturday. If by some odd quirk you find yourself in Minneapolis and want to see Red Tide, you can find times, location and tickets HERE. If you're stuck here in the summer heat like the rest of us, think positive thoughts for the mighty Prometheans.
The local paper is the Star-Tribune, and you can find their coverage of the festival HERE. But be prepared; the Star-Trib is just about the lousiest website I've ever seen. It's slow to render, and is overloaded with moving graphics, and it's even harder to navigate than the Sun-Sentinel.
UPDATE: I found a web page that has reviews from Fringe-goers:
Visit it HERE.
Some snippets:
" advertised this show is intense and the piece is indeed
"...great script and cast..."
""The Fringe Linda Fiorentino Last Seduction Femme Fatale Award," this year goes to Deborah L. Sherman."
"There wasn't a fluffy moment in this well-crafted script of fully developed characters and snappy dialogue. Well-paced, fast-moving, lots of nifty twists & turns. Very impressive, I hope they come back next year"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Status Check: Coconut Grove Playhouse

The Miami Herald reports on the status of four South Florida Landmarks and their struggle to survive, and it includes the Playhouse.
"The Coconut Grove Playhouse theater, $4 million in debt, is closed pending a decision about its future. The board of directors expects to receive a study soon of how the property at 3500 Main Hwy. in Miami
should best be restored."
As has become typical for the Miami Herald, they've under-reported the facts; we're left to assume that $4 million is the only money the Playhouse needs to raise. But the reality is much higher; the building is structurally unsound. Restoring the Grove could easily run into tens of millions of dollars without addressing its debt, or its theatre systems.

This isn't news to the Grove's Board of Directors. In fact, they've been receiving grants for years to renovate the building and its structure. They've already received tens of millions of dollars over the last twenty years; wherever the money went, it wasn't into the structure.

Most likely, it was illegally siphoned off to cover the Grove's production deficits, as happened to the LAST grant they received. You know, the one they had to borrow money to pay back when they got caught using grant money to cover their payroll.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse started off "Waiting for Godot;" now, it's waiting for competent leadership.