Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Community One Play: Melt (3 reviews)

One Community One Play opened Michael McKeever's Melt at the Miracle Theatre on February 18, 2010.
As a new skyline forms over the city of Miami, histories, traditions, and heritage are slowly being lost. And, perhaps, new ones are being created. Three families - one Cuban, one African-American, and one Jewish - collide, intermingle, and eventually blend as Melt unfolds its intricately woven tapestry of family, history, and hope.
Stuart Meltzer directed a cast that included John Felix, Reiss Gaspard, Nicholas Richberg, Teresa MarĂ­a Rojas, Javier Siut, and Lela Elam.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Michael McKeever's Melt debuted two years ago at the New Theatre in Coral Gables. I missed it. It won the Carbonell Award for Best New Play and was mounted again, with either the same or nearly the same cast in New York City, and I didn't see it then either. Now, having caught it during a two-week engagement with a mostly new cast at Actors' Playhouse, I wish I had seen it both other times too.

Because Melt is the kind of play you come back to.
Through the personas of two women, two Jews, two Hispanics, two gays, and no WASPS, McKeever endeavors to tell the Magic City's untold story, or at least a version of it, and he succeeds.
Under the direction of Stuart Meltzer — who paces the play slowly but not stolidly, like an August day spent drinking caipirinhas in Wynwood — several of the actors perform minor miracles. John Felix and Teresa Maria Rojas seem to carry the city's history on their shoulders as they take their deliberate steps around the stage, and their words are weighted with the knowledge that, for every thought they share, there are a hundred that will never be spoken. And Lela Elam — after picking up her role only two days before opening, when another actor fell ill — crafts a nuanced, multilayered portrait of a lady who has spent her professional life attaining a street cred she secretly believes she may never deserve.
Full disclosure: I spent the last five minutes of Melt in tears, because apart from anything else, it is a lonely finger pointing into the darkness of yesteryear and tracing the rough contours of all that's lost — to deaths and goodbyes and redevelopments and displacements. It is also an impassioned plea from a writer, a director, and seven actors to please, not forget, or lose anymore.
Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Lela Elam, who stepped into the role of Adelle just a few days before the opening when actress Tara Vodihn was hospitalized, wasn’t off book on opening night, but her strong performance was not marred by referring to her script. Elam is amazing—in a monologue recalling her grandfather’s memories of Miami, she morphs into an old man with her voice and body language, and then just as seamlessly back into her own character.
One of the most touching scenes in Melt is between Marta and Isaac, the Cuban and the Jew, when the two bond over family and illness outside a hospital. Rojas and Felix are excellent as they size each other up, initially with annoyance, but gradually let their baggage fall away as they discover their commonality.
Melt is poetic and lyrical, although the decision to stage it with all the characters on stage weighs it down. To see the characters frozen in tableau while one scene is spotlighted adds too much solemnity to the piece. It’s too somber, and lacks the pacing that would make this production more compelling.

Still, Melt is a well-written and well-acted play, with well-written characters that audience members are sure to recognize from their own lives.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Several members of Leadership Miami felt so strongly about the play's power to spur discussion that they invited nearly 900 high school students to see it in a one-time-only performance last year. Now, thanks to their efforts and their passion for the play, it has returned yet again, this time for a two-weekend run in the upstairs Balcony Theatre at Actors' Playhouse the Miracle Theatre.
(Actors' Playhouse is a production company, and they didn't produce this show. It played at the Miracle Theatre. - Ed.)
McKeever's graceful, funny, insightful writing makes his moving characters live and breathe. That Melt won the Carbonell, the region's highest theater honor, is no surprise.
The simple new production, staged by Stuart Meltzer, features two actors reprising their roles from the original (Felix and Siut), one who joined for the Gusman show (Richberg) and three who are new to the piece (Rojas, Gaspard and Elam). All are terrific: Rojas and Siut with their funny mami-and-son interplay, Felix with his heartbreaking decline, Richberg and Gaspard as loving partners with issues. And then there's Elam.

Elam is really new to the play: Replacing Tara Vodihn, who had to leave the cast because of a medical issue, Elam had 48 hours before Friday's opening night to learn the role of Adelle. And though the Carbonell-winning actress consulted a "notebook'' (really the script) in a few scenes, she flawlessly delivered several key speeches from memory.

The One Community One Play production of Melt runs through February 28 at the Miracle Theatre.

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