Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Scene for April 29, 2011

It's a good weekend for children's theatre in South Florida; Actors' Playhouse presents the 16th Annual National Children's Theatre Festival at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables; the festival kicks off this weekend with a Free Kids Fest Family Weekend on April 30 & May 1, and the opening of a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes

Not to be out-done, it's Family Fun Day at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on May 1, featuring the Sign Stage On Tour production of Winnie The Pooh.

And of course, you can still see the world premiere production of The Red Thread at The Playground Theatre.


The Slow Burn Theatre Company
opens Blood Brothers at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, through

The Music Man opens at the Stage Door Theatre, where it will play through June 19.

you still haven't missed...

The Andrews Living Arts Studio presents EQUUS  through May 7.

The Women's Theatre Project presents Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks, through May 15.

God of Carnage plays at The Caldwell Theatre Company through May 15. 

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Meshuggah-Nuns, the 4th sequel to the zany Nunsense, plays at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center through May 8, 2011.

last chance to see...

Mosaic Theatre closes its production of Stephen Belber's Dusk Rings A Bell through May 1, 2011

House Theatre of Chicago's production of The Sparrow winds up its run at the  Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on May 1.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Actors' Playhouse presents a new version of The Emperor's New Clothes through May 27.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

State Wide Audtions - FPTA

The Florida Professional Theatres Association is holding their 31st annual statewide auditions at the Riverside Theater in Vero Beach, May 21-23.  Not only are the FPTA's an opportunity to audition for theatres from all over South Florida, it's a great networking opportunity.

You must register before Monday, May 16; click HERE for information.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nunsense Dons The Borchst Belt

In a late addition to your Monday reading, The Miami New Times interviews the creator of Nunsense about his latest project, Meshuggah-Nuns.
Cultist: Where'd you come up with the idea for the new show Meshuggah-Nuns

Dan Goggin: You know, it was very funny, we were doing a show at the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, Florida, and the producer there said to me, he said, "You know if you really want to sell in Florida, you need to have a Jewish character in your show." So, I thought, "Oh,alright, maybe that's an idea." 
Meshuggah-Nuns opens Wednesday at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.

Mondays are Dark

A surprising busy week in the press: enjoy your Monday reading list.

And The Award Goes To...
The Drama Queen reports that Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park has won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama.  Caldwell Theatre Company mounted a critically acclaimed production of the play back in January.

BOP 'til you Drop
Mosaic Theatre's Blog explains that choosing a season isn't just about finding a good play.  It's a process that includes some cold hard figures.

Ken Gets Cast
Miami Artzine sits down with actor Ken Clement and gets filled in on Ken's casting news. 

Taye Finds His Groove
The Miami Herald talks with Taye Diggs about his upcoming cabaret at Barton G's Prelude.

Add it Up
The Arsht Center has been collecting Addy Awards; read about it in
The ADDYs are the advertising and marketing industry's most significant awards competition, with more than 60,000 entries annually. The Adrienne Arsht Center's 6 awards recognized marketing efforts and advertising pieces surrounding a number of shows and programs, including the 2010 Jazz Roots series, Babalu, the Center's summer 2010 brochure, and the Adrienne Arsht Center 2010 specialty holiday chocolates package.
Some Ad Campaigns, OTOH
The Digital Dish notes that the Florida Grand Opera is among the area's first groups to use a QR code on a billboard.  A QR code is something you scan with your phone, and it takes you to a website, or plays a video, or whatever.  Which sounds cool, until you try scanning while you're driving your car down the road.

Oh, Mr. Grant...
Ed Asner is bring his one-man play FDR to the Caldwell Theatre in June; South Florida Theater Review tells us a little about it, and links to a video.  But Talkin' Broadway seems more enthusiastic about it.

Kids Create
The Miami Theatre Examiner reports that 72 students have created The Story Within Me, presented by Voices United on Saturday, April 30.

New Venue
Miami Today notes that the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Center opened on Saturday, three years to the day from when it was supposed to open.  The fact that the contractor went out of  business might have had something to do with that.  But it's open now, and by all account's it's a beautiful space, and well-appointed for all sorts of performance.

Old Venue
The Gusman Theater (which is really the Olympia Theater) is one of Miami's true architectural treasures.  But it's also one of its most under-utilized venues; it only offered 70 days of programming last year.  But Herman Echevarria is trying to change that, according to The Miami HeraldEye on Miami is suspicious of Echevarria's participation, however.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Scene for April 22, 2011

A new venue opens Saturday - the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center kicks off with the All Kids Included Family Arts Festival, this Saturday morning from 10am to 5pm.  And it's free!

And we would be remiss if we did not update you on the latest "Cast Ken" news; Ken Clement appears in Florida Grand Opera's production of Cyrano. No, he is not playing Cyrano.


The Women's Theatre Project opens Theresa Rebeck's Sunday on the Rocks, through May 15.

Thinking Cap Theatre presents Que(e)rying Shakespeare at The Wine Cellar, April 23-27.  And yes, admission includes chees & fruit plae, and one beverage (including wine).

you still haven't missed...

God of Carnage plays at The Caldwell Theatre Company through May 15. 

The Andrews Living Arts Studio presents EQUUS  through May 7.

Mosaic Theatre presents Stephen Belber's Dusk Rings A Bell through May 1, 2011

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Wicked plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 24, 2011.  There is a daily ticket lottery, where you can win a pair of seats in the orchestra section for only $25 each.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts presents Chicago's House Theatre production of The Sparrow, through May 1.

While it's not a play, it's a show about Broadway musicals, and it's Seth Rudetsky, so we wanted to mention that Seth  performs  Seth's Big Fat Broadway Show, April 21  at The Broward Center, and April 22 at The Kravis Center.

last chance to see...

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite  finally ends its extended run on April 24.

The First Step - a Diary of a Sex Addict winds up its run at Empire Stage on April 24.

The New Century closes at The Waterfront Playhouse on April 23, for those who are in extreme South Florida - Key West.  Rich Simone, Carbonell award winning former artistic director of the late Miami Shores Playhouse.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mondays are Dark

It's been a very busy week on The Scene - lots of material for the Monday reading list.  But first, congratulations to Andy Rogow.  He will be joining Rising Action Theatre as its Producing Director.  Rogow is no stranger to the South Florida theatre scene - he was the artistic director at the defunct Hollywood Playhouse, and a past president of the Theatre League.  We wish him well, and suggest that he gets David Goldyn to stop mouthing off at critics who pan Rising Action productions.

And now, your Monday reading list.

Cast Recording
South Florida Theater Review tells us that G4's production of Motherhood, The Musical is getting an original cast recording.  That includes Lisa Manuli, who won a Carbonell for her work on the show.  And we would be remiss if we didn't also mention Kareema Khouri, Margot Moreland, Laura Turnbull, and musical director Johnny Rodgers.

A Rose By Any Other Name...
1st Draft muses over the difficulties inherent in choosing - and publicizing - the title of a new play.
And then there's the length of the thing, never mind the words. I can't post a message on Twitter using the full title, because it takes up 29 of my 140 characters. For now, I'm abbreviating it as CHA-CHA.
Hopefully, no one starts confusing it with CAN-CAN.

Caldwell's Doing a Musical?  HOW?
South Florida Theater Review tells us that Caldwell Theatre, not known for doing musicals, is teaming up with Entr'Acte Theatrix to mount City of Angels.
The newly-formed Artistic Alliance joins the 35-year-old Boca Raton theater fighting its way out of debt with the fledgling Palm Beach group that gives freshly-minted performers an opportunity to work in a professional production.
Caldwell is Number One
Well, The Scene didn't win the Sun-Sentinel's Best of Blog (maybe we should stop calling it the "Stunned-Senseless"), but the Caldwell Theatre Company was selected as Palm Beach County's best theatre group in a Palm Beach Post reader's poll by a fair margin.

Mr. Grant Comes To Town
BroadwayWorld reports that Ed Asner will be appearing at the Caldwell Theatre in Dory Schary's FDR.  Get your tickets NOW.

Arisco Wins One
South Florida Theater Review reports that Actors' Playhouse will be mounting the regional premiere of the musical Next To Normal, one of last seasons' hottest tickets on The Great White Way.
Artistic Director David Arisco had been lobbying for the show for many months, but Executive Producing Director Barbara Stein was less than thrilled about the prospects for a musical that includes a number about whether to try electroshock therapy. The bare outlines of the material didn’t speak to her at all. “I didn’t see it in New York. I just really did not want to see it,” she said.
The article also touches on other artistic risks the Playhouse has taken over the years.

Word Play, and Word
The Miracle Theatre Examiner's post seems like a fluff piece using Broadway show titles, but there's a little more going on there.
At what point do we sell out our Equity performers who get pension and health to hire no-union performers?  Who's fault is it?  Actors' Equity is not making their union stronger by keeping talented non-union performers out from paying into the system.  It's like the Wisconsin teachers situation,  Actors' Equity won't accept the non-union talent so now who has the bargaining rights, The Producers?  What does this mean to the average theatre goer?
It's a valid point;  In The Heights just "ended" its tour in Miami.  But expect to see it back on the road in the next year or so -less an Equity contract. (Actors' Equity Association, a.k.a. "AEA" or "Equity," is the stage performer's union).  The Color Purple did the same thing last year.  But are ticket prices being reduced to reflect the lesser costs of these productions?  Or are producers lining their pockets at the expense of actors' benefits packages?

Not Just "Broward"
The Drama Queen reports that The Broward Stage Door Theatre just received a lease to mount productions at Miami Beach's Byron Carlyle Theatre.

Since we were just discussing companies dropping their contracts, we'd be remiss if we didn't note that The Stage Door dropped its Equity status a number of years ago, after reaching an impasse with the union during contract negotiations. 

Speaking of Unions
The Palm Beach Daily News reports that The Kravis Center is still failing to to come to a court-ordered agreement with the stagehands' union, IATSE Local 500.
The central point separating the sides is the union’s insistence that the Kravis employ only workers referred from its hiring hall for shows the center presents in Dreyfoos Hall.

Other points in dispute include whether the center illegally stopped employing union-referred department heads and violated the law by applying different wage, benefit and other terms for its own employees and those referred from the hiring hall.
The most ludicrous claim by Kravis Center management:
The union and the center have locked horns about back pay. The Kravis maintains that wages union workers earned at other venues while they were shut out of the center should be deducted from the nearly $3.6 million in gross back pay the board calculated it owes union workers.
Of course, if the Kravis Center hadn't broken the law in the first place, those workers would not have been forced to find other work.  There is no rational argument to support the Kravis Center's position.  Indeed, the courts have continually found against the Center on every issue, and that's likely to occur again.  Of course, it's led to a lively discussion in the comments section of the article.

Read more about this issue at

... in Coconut Grove, the man most responsible for running the Coconut Grove Playhouse into the ground is writing letters to The Miami Herald questioning how a capital grant will be spent to launch a new Playhouse.  That's right, Arnold "$4 Million Debt" Mittelman apparently feels that current plans will misuse the funds he tried to misuse back in 2004.
Answers from the county will go a long way in helping us understand how $20 million of taxpayers’ money, which was allocated for one purpose — saving and restoring the internationally renowned playhouse building — is now being spent on a 300-seat stand-alone theater project having little or no resemblance to the reason the county initially provided the funding. Perhaps there were elements of this process that allowed for public input, but despite my more than 20-year leadership of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, I was never asked a single question.
Hey, Arnie, that's probably because 
  1. you didn't spend any of the previous capital grants on preserving the building
  2. you tried to use a portion of the last capital grant to cover payroll instead of preserving the building
  3. while you were 'leading' the Playhouse, your own plans also revolved around tearing down the remains of the historic theatre - and
  4. you were pushing to turn the site - including the building- over to private developers who not only would have torn down the building, but would have added lots of retail space as well.
  5. you ran up a $4 million debt that shut down the organization.
And we'll address another issue he raised:
How could the city of Aventura have recently built and opened on schedule a 325-seat theater for $6.1 million — including donated city land —while the Grove project appears to be headed, with donated state land, to costing $20 million for 300 seats?
The Aventura Arts and Cultural Center is a pretty little theatre.  But it lacks every amenity needed to create original productions; it is a presenting house - it brings in small touring productions.  Very small touring productions.

The Grove was/will be a producing house: it will create productions from the ground up.  It will need space to build scenery, costumes, and props.  It will need offices (the AACC has ONE office shared by a small staff) for its artistic staff, its Administrative staff (the AACC is adminstered by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts), development staff (to raise money for productions), its FOH staff, and its sales staff.  And rehearsal space to prepare upcoming productions during the current shows.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Caldwell Theatre Company: God of Carnage (4 reviews)

The Caldwell Theatre Company opened its production of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage on April 15, 2011.
...a comedy of manners without the manners. Boys will be boys, but can the grown ups be grown up enough to resolve their differences without losing sight of right and wrong? The façade of civility shatters as the God of Carnage wreaks havoc in the living room and all hell breaks loose.
Kenneth Kay directed a cast that included Kim Ostrenko, Nick Santa Maria, Kim Cozort, and Michael Serratore.Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theatre Review:
...the production, expertly paced by director Kenneth Kay, lampoons the fragility and hypocrisy of the devices we use to lubricate social interaction: the meaningless banter, the forced smiles, the insincere agreements, the perfunctory but false forgiveness — anything to prevent our differences and self-interests from abrading each other raw. Reza leads you to expect a nuclear detonation that never quite arrives, which leaves the dramatic arc just a tinge unsatisfying.
That makes the considerable accomplishment of Kay and Company all the more laudable in clothing that framework with a fully-fleshed out evening of theater.
A lot of the acting is in facial reactions: Ostrenko’s glares as her lawyer husband takes dozens of cell phone calls from work in the midst of this gauntlet, Cozort’s angled head turned in disgust at everyone’s dismissal of her liberal philosophies, Serratore’s determination to smile through insults when his blue-collar background makes him want to smack someone, Santa Maria’s drunken dopey grin of surrender as he realizes the entire situation including his marriage is imploding.
Kudos to Tim Bennett’s plush urbanite apartment, all beige marble tiles and carpet set off by a ruby red upholstered furniture and a huge swatch of burgundy-colored cloth sloping from the ceiling to the floor, carefully arranged stacks of art books and a low marble enclosure that is supposed to suggest the living room as a sandbox but really gives the sense of an very expensive arena.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
At the Caldwell, director Kenneth Kay and a crackerjack cast mine God of Carnage for every trenchant, appalling, humorous moment Reza and Hampton have supplied. In just 90 minutes, four apparently sane and successful adults devolve from trying to have a reasonable if emotionally fraught discussion to drunkenly contemplating the aftermath of an all-out verbal brawl. That wild ride is persuasive and highly entertaining.
As they slide from adult calm to childish savagery, the Caldwell’s four impressive actors function as a dazzling ensemble and captivating soloists. Reza’s depiction of men and women behaving like mean-spirited, self-obsessed boys and girls is a resonant cautionary tale. And a very funny one.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
The audience leapt to its feet, filling the theatre with applause, as the curtain fell on opening night of God of Carnage at the Caldwell Theatre.  But if I can be an intellectual snob for a couple of minutes I'd like to point out that five minutes into the show I thought, uh oh, it's Improv Night at the Caldwell and in the Category: Acting Styles, someone in the house has suggested “Sit-Com.”
A hit on Broadway and winner of three Tony Awards including Best Play, Carnage is pretty much a ninety-minute argument between two couples, highlighted by Kim Ostrenko projectile vomiting onto the coffee table.  Lesser moments include Kim Cozort bounding across a sofa to land on a prone Michael Serratore and beating him about the head and shoulders and Nick Santa Maria answering an incessantly ringing cell phone.  In a story line that has two well-to-do couples meeting to discuss a playground fight between their sons and then finishing as drunkenly maudlin wrecks who stagger around Tim Bennett's wonderfully faux art deco set, nothing really happens.

John Thomason wrote for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Kenneth Kay directs with the best of intentions, but this show lacks the crackling electricity and adherence to everyday realism that earned the Broadway production a Best Play Tony in 2009.
Sadly, that's all we get about this production. Thomason wastes several paragraphs on the singular special effect associated with the show, and we hate to say that he goes on ad nauseam, but that's the term for it.  Beyond that, there's no review, only script analysis.  Sure, the script is important, but what about the production?

It's hard to know if the problem lies with Thomason, or his editor, but either way the end result is an article that falls far short of valid theatre critique.  Hardly worth reading.

God of Carnage plays at The Caldwell Theatre through May 14, 2011.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Scene for April 15, 2011

Well, it's starting to feel like summer out there - but only the weather.  The plays are still coming on fast and furious.

We've had a strong year of great plays, and great productions of plays; we're having the best season in memory. We hope you're out there taking advantage of all the excellent theatre going on right now.


God of Carnage opens at The Caldwell Theatre Company, and runs through May 15.   South Florida Theater Review talks with the director and several cast members about it.

The Andrews Living Arts Studio opens EQUUS, which will play through May 7.

you still haven't missed...

Another big hit is closing this weekend; Palm Beach DramaWorks will finally close has extended Dinner with Friends on April 17 through April 20, after packing houses for two months.

Mosaic Theatre opens Stephen Belber's Dusk Rings A Bell, through May 1, 2011

The New Century plays at The Waterfront Playhouse through April 23, for those who are in extreme South Florida - Key West.  Rich Simone, Carbonell award winning former artistic director of the late Miami Shores Playhouse, directed this one, and the cast includes Linda Bernhard.  Through April 23.

The New Theatre production of The Radiant runs through April 27, 2011.

The First Step - a Diary of a Sex Addict plays at Empire Stage through April 24.   It's directed by Michael Leeds, who seems to have plays all over Broward County.

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Forbidden Broadway plays the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, through Sunday, April 17.

Wicked plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 24, 2011.  There is a daily ticket lottery, where you can win a pair of seats in the orchestra section for only $25 each.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts presents Chicago's House Theatre production of The Sparrow, through May 1.

last chance to see...

The smash hit Crazy for You winds up its at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre on April 17.

for kids...

The Playground Theatre presents the world premiere of The Red Thread, through May 27.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mosaic Theatre: Dusk Rings A Bell (5 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Stephen Belber's Dusk Rings a Bell on April 7, 2011.
Molly and Ray unexpectedly meet 25 years after a one-afternoon adolescent fling. She has a successful media career; he owns a small landscaping business. Both begin to romanticize their chance reunion, but a renewed connection is disrupted when their encounter reveals two vastly different paths taken and two lonely souls attempting to reclaim a moment of possibility, when they were young and perhaps at their very best.
Richard Jay Simon directs a cast that features Jenny McKnight and Gregg Weiner.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Director Richard Jay Simon’s excavation of Belber’s script, imbued with rue and compassion, wasn’t thrilling or overwhelming, but Dusk proved quietly and persistently intriguing. Their work together was packed with so many insights into human frailty that audience members might want a second viewing just to process all that is rushing by in a whitewater rapids of ideas.
McKnight, a Chicago-based actress, charms the audience with her seemingly self-possessed urbanite barely aware of her unresolved issues. McKnight makes the most of Molly’s sly wit and self-awareness to humanize a character we might otherwise find irritating.
Weiner, who picked up his fifth Carbonell Award last week, delivers an unassailably solid performance of someone weary from a decade of consciously reining his reactions.

John Thomason wrote about the play for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, and after reciting the entire storyline and spoiling every plot twist, eventually almost reviews the play.
The drama plays out on a rustic set that is one of Mosaic's most impressive in some time... McKnight is excellent in the more demanding of the two roles, but Weiner, while visually believable as a prickly ex-con, can't quite keep up with her. He is one of the best actors in the South Florida community — he just won a Best Actor Carbonell — but this time, a Herculean effort is required of him. He was thrown into the role with just a couple of weeks to prepare after originally cast actor Clint Hooper fell ill, and it shows.
So the play is spoiled for anyone who hasn't seen it, for what is really a vague and useless critique.  So McKnight is "excellent" and Weiner needs to make "a Herculean effort" to... well, we don't know.  Thomason never says.  He says that Weiner "can't keep up" with McKnight, so presumably there's a foot race or something. At least he follows up his comments with the fact that Weiner was a late replacement. But honestly, that should have been the first thing he mentions.  "Weiner, who was a late replacement, was not as strong in the play as his co-star."  

Eileen Spiegler reviewed  wrote for The Miami Herald:
Director Richard Jay Simon draws from the actors a plaintive realization of how far Molly and Ray have come. They may be drifting souls, but they seem like people you could know, or be. Weiner, a Carbonell winner frequently involved in South Florida productions, shows the ruin of Ray’s life in his sagging shoulders and flat delivery, while McKnight captures a woman conflicted over who she is and who she’s supposed to be.

As is typical of Mosaic productions, Douglas Grinn’s set detail is wonderful, down to the sprays of sea oats growing through the boardwalk, and it efficiently shifts from beach house to Italian restaurant without drawing attention to itself.
Spiegler padded out a lot of space for what is basically two paragraphs of actual review.  She'd be well advised to spend more time analyzing where the work of the playwright ends, where the work of the actor begins, and how the director bridged them both.

Ron Levitt reviewed wrote for ENV Magazine:
...this production – from the beginning –  catches one’s  imagination and curiosity, thanks to the able direction of Richard Jay Simon and the acting prowess of its stars.
And that's what Ron is passing off as a review this week.  He describes the characters,  summarizes the plot, and presents a glowing biography of the actors, but never actually connects them beyond mentioning that both actors have "prowess," and that Gregg Wiener is "inimitable."

Oh, wait, there is one more thing:
The technicians really shine in this Mosaic production.
Scenic designer  Douglas Grinn has taken what appears to be a simple  beach club cottage set and transforms it into several locations. Also weaving some of the magic at Mosaic is sound guru Matt Corey (another multiple Carbonell winner), lighting genius Dan Gelbmann and low-key costume designer K. Blair Brown.
Oh, what Ron means is that THE DESIGN TEAM really shines.  If you notice the technicians, something is really, really wrong.

Hopefully, some actual theatre critics beyond Bill will see the show, because  Speigler and Levitt give us nothing.  C'mon Herald, don't send out hacks to do a reviewer's job.

Oh, wait, John LaRiviere was there for Talkin' Broadway:
Belber's writing is laden with quasi-intellectual phrases and multi-syllabic words expounding on the complex nature of communication. With so many of them packed into every sentence they begin to lose their individual clarity and power.
Both Jenny McKnight (Molly) and Gregg Weiner (Ray) handle the language well, and mange to find the relationship beneath. The moments in which they connect on the simplest of levels, and share a look and reaction are the best. McKnight at times allows the words to come out stilted, when they should be natural extensions of the character. It is a question of emphasis and inflection based on sentence structure regardless of the words chosen. Weiner has a greater connection to the words and his character seems clearer.
John tends to be overly-technical in his critiques; it's as if he's analyzing for a classroom paper, instead of a theatre review.  But as ridiculously detailed and technical as his reviews are, they are still structurally sound, unlike the products of Eileen Spiegler, who apparently has never studied theatre criticism, and Ron Levitt, whose reviews read more like press releases than critiques.

Dusk Rings A Bell plays at Mosaic Theatre through May 1, 2011.

Arsht Center: The Sparrow (reviews)

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts opened The House Theatre's production of The Sparrow on April 7, 2011, in the center's Carnival Studio Theatre.
Created by the award-winning team at The House Theatre of Chicago, THE SPARROW is one of the most original and acclaimed new works to emerge from the Chicago theater scene in decades. The play, intertwined with music and dance, tells the story of Emily Book, a small-town girl returning home 10 years after a tragic accident that claimed the lives of her entire class. As the town struggles to accept the strange girl who reminds them of their loss, Emily attempts to hide the special powers that make her different.
Nathan Allen directed a cast that included Carolyn Defrin, Paige Hoffman, Shawn Pfautsch, Marika Mashburn, Mike Smith, Joey Steakley, Brandon Ruiter, Abu Ansari, Caitlin Chukta, Trista Smith, and Ele Matelan.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for the South Florida Theater Review:
The Sparrow is a moving, occasionally funny and frequently stunning piece that melds acting, music, highly stylized choreography and, above all, endlessly inventive staging.
...the reason not to miss this show is not the story; it’s the story-telling that you only find in theater – the metaphors that the company has created just with light, sound, movement and minimal scenery.
Then there’s the 13 cast members in their 20s who convincingly double as emotionally-wounded adults as well as the awkward teenagers. Having worked together for years, they evoke a sense of community from the opening of the play.
Kevin O’Donnell’s score provides a steady underpinning like a movie soundtrack. Tommy Rapley’s choreography ranges from a Fred and Ginger pas de deux to the frenzied gyrations of the homecoming dance to a glorious solo when Emily sheds her pain and expresses bliss for the first time all night.
Roger Martin reviewed for
“She's Got Astonishing Magical Powers.”  That's what they say of Emily Book, heroine of The Sparrow, now playing at the Adrienne Arsht Center.  But truly, the phrase should be applied to the creators of this piece for they have spun together a piece so imaginative, enthralling and just plain fun that goggle eyes and bated breath rule the auditorium.
The Sparrow is not all about singing pink piglets returning from the dead, school bus wrecks and cutesy-pie cheerleaders.  There are tears and tragedy, regret and laughter and the cast members of The House Theatre of Chicago who perform this piece are uniform in their excellence as actors, singers and dancers.
Carolyn Defrin shines and flies as Emily Book-The Sparrow, and Shawn Pfautsch stands out as Dan Christopher, school teacher and all around good guy.
The House Theatre production of The Sparrow plays at the Arsht Center through May 1, 2011.

"Another Opening, Another Show..."

uVu Video Blog has a couple of clips of  two newly opened shows; Dusk Rings A Bell, which opened Saturday at Mosaic Theatre, and God of Carnage, currently in previews at The Caldwell Theatre Company.

Mondays are Dark

Another busy week behind - and ahead!  Here's your Monday reading list:

The NEA: An Investment, Not a Give-away.
Congress continues to work against the interests of Americans by chipping away at items that enrich our citizens in so many ways.  The Seattle Times starts its coverage with Kevin Spacey speaking out on the steps of Congress, but delves much deeper:
Robert Lynch, president of the lobbying group Americans for the Arts, said many new lawmakers in a rush to cut budgets fail to see the jobs and economic boost that arts organizations provide as small businesses. The $166 billion nonprofit arts sector includes 5.7 million jobs and generates nearly $30 billion in tax revenue, he said.
It's that $30 billion in revenue and those 5.7 million jobs that Congress is really killing.

Actor Tim Robbins weighs in on, making much the same point:
Economic impact studies have shown that for every dollar invested by our government in arts programs an average of  nine dollars of spending is generated in communities where these arts programs exist. The arts are an engine for economic growth.
Imagine that each dollar spent on the arts is like the grain of sand in an oyster; itself worthless, it accrues the wealth and beauty of a pearl around it. 

You can watch Kevin Spacey talk about it with Chris Matthews on

A Safer Spider Play
Florida Stage will wind up it season with The Cha-Cha of a Camel Spider, by Carter W. Lewis - read about it in BroadwayWorld.  Hopefully, this one won't send cast members to the emergency room, like certain other plays with "spider" in the title.

Beth in Blithe
Beth Dimon steps into the role of Madame Arcati in the Gulfshore Playhouse production of Blithe Spirit, and The Naples News Stage Door has the story.  If you find yourself on the Gulf Coast, be sure to stop in.

Production Looms Large
The Miami Herald fills their story about the Playground Theatre's upcoming production of The Red Thread with every weaving metaphor it can.  And, so, apparently, does the show itself.

The Producer's Perspective says quit yer bitchin' and see more plays.

It's All About the Packaging
The Minnesota Playlist talks about how to lure college students in to see plays
Collegev students are busy, and they think about that fact often. In order for them to voluntarily chisel a play into their iceberg-ian schedules, the process must simplify, not complicate, their lives.
Nobody Minded Tin Pan Alley
South Florida Theater Review discusses the realities of theaters that use canned music.  (Be sure to check out the comments below the article).

Witch Switch
BroadwayWorld reports that a new Glinda is going into the national tour of Wicked, currently playing at the Broward Center.

Come Tumblin' Down
The Miami Herald talks about local theatre productions that reach through - or knock down entirely - the "fourth wall," the invisible barrier between the audience and the actors.

Down for the Count
Buzzfeed has photos of 75 theatres from around the country that have been abandoned.  South Florida's empty theatres are not in the collection - but they could be.

... The Coconut Grove Grapevine reports that the Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed., despite a Miami Herald story saying things are moving along.
They say that the County Commission has come up with a recovery play, but as far as we know, the current board is still not budging.
It's not so much that they aren't budging, but more a matter of they are failing to pay of the massive debt they ran up.

A story in  Miami Today sums up the problem:
To save the cash-strapped theater and strengthen the arts, former County Manager George Burgess had recommended dissolving the theater's board and handing ownership to the county.
Of course, there's a catch:
But before the property's ownership can transfer, playhouse officials must resolve all outstanding debt.
Which really means that the members sitting on the board at the time of its closing must cough up the dough, because it's impossible to raise money simply to pay off old debt.  They should have been on top of the debt situation all along, and they weren't.

Then the Grapevine goes on to reveal its dismal understanding of the world of theatre:
Larry (ed. - we don't know who they mean, either) needs a lesson in artistic credibility. The Coconut Grove Playouse name is known world-wide and has been a real name for 50 years, the GableStage has been around for about 13 years. Not many people know of it. Just the mere announcment of the Coconut Grove Playhouse reopening would be world-wide news, using GableStage as a come-on is not needed.
Grapevine, here's the facts: nobody is going to give money to the Coconut Grove Playhouse because they used to do good plays thirty years ago, especially in light of how badly managed it's been.  Theatre is not about a performance space: it's about the people who put the plays in them.  If all you have is the Playhouse name for fund-raising, you've got nothing.  You need an artistic director with an exciting vision that will entice support. 

GableStage has an artistic director who has taken an obscure and ragged and indebted company and taken it to national prominence, winning more awards in than span than the Grove ever did.

If the Grove does not have an artistic director of at least equal stature, putting any effort into it is a complete waste of time an money - because it will fail.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Speaking of Shameless Popularity Contests

Some astute reader nominated The Scene for the Best of Blog (BoB) under "Music and Nightlife.  Now, we don't do it for the glory, but hey, we're on the ballot, and if you're of a mind to vote, you know what to do.

Either way, we'll keep plugging along.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Scene for April 8, 2011

It's taken us this long to recover from the Carbonell After-Party, but we've finally shaken off the gin to bring you this week's Scene.  And we hope that you're as glad as we are that this means no more talk of Todd Durkin's, um, stuff.

Moving on to theatre talk, has anyone else noticed that Dinner with Friends will have run an astonishing two months at Palm Beach Dramaworks by the time it wraps in two weeks?

The Andrews Living Arts Studio has pushed back the opening of its production of EQUUS one week, to April 15, due to an illness in the cast.


Mosaic Theatre opens Stephen Belber's Dusk Rings A Bell, through May 1, 2011

The New Century opened Tuesday at The Waterfront Playhouse, and runs through April 23, for those who are in extreme South Florida - Key West.  Rich Simone, Carbonell award winning former artistic director of the late Miami Shores Playhouse, directed this one, and the cast includes Linda Bernhard.  Through April 23.

you still haven't missed...

Crazy for You is wowing the crowds at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through April 17.

New Theatre production of The Radiant runs through April 27, 2011.

The First Step - a Diary of a Sex Addict plays at Empire Stage through April 24.   It's directed by Michael Leeds, who seems to have plays all over Broward County.

Fifty/Fifty plays at Teatro en Miami Studio through May 14.  Spanish, with English supertitles.

Palm Beach DramaWorks is running Dinner with Friends through April 17. 

The Stage Door Theatre  production of Plaza Suite runs through March 20 has been extended to April 24.

Laffing Matterz  serves up the laughs at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, through May 14, 2010

passing through...

Playwright and author David Sedaris (The Santaland Diaries) is appearing at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse, one night only on April 8.

Wicked plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through April 24, 2011.  There is a daily ticket lottery, where you can win a pair of seats in the orchestra section for only $25 each.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts presents Chicago's House Theatre production of The Sparrow, through May 1.

last chance to see...

Gablestage's critically acclaimed production of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts  winds up its run through April 10.

The excellent production of The Light in the Piazza  at The Stage Door Theatre, closes on April 10.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And The Winners Are...

The 35th Carbonell Awards Ceremony went smoothly, and stories were posted even before the after-party got under way.  The GableStage production swept the awards, but honestly, the entire community won. 

Video of the awards:
Channel 2 uVu Blog

Here are links to the stories:

Miami ArtZine

The South Florida Theater Review.

The Miami Herald.

Palm Beach ArtsPaper 


Palm Beach Daily News (The Shiny Sheet)

We'll update this page as more stories hit the net.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mondays are Dark

Well, not this Monday.  Tonight is the 35th Annual Carbonell Awards Ceremony at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  Or as those of us in the local theatre community like to call it, "theatre prom."  More than a night of recognition for local theatres, the Carbonell Organization also awards scholarships, and gives the local theatre scene an excuse to gather in one place without handing over photos and resumes.  Not that that doesn't happen, of course.

And the after-party sponsored by doesn't suck, neither.

One Down...
Not all the awards are kept under wraps until tonight; The Drama Queen reports that the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts was awarded to Patrice Baily, dean of theatre at New World School of the Arts.  And the Broward Center will receive the Ruth Foreman Award in recognition of its contributions.

...Speaking of NWSA and BCPA
South Florida Theater Review outlines a couple of Master Class workshops being offered at New World School of the Arts and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  Coincidence?

From Carbonell to Tony?
The Miracle Theatre Examiner notes that Janet Dacal, currently starring in Wonderland on Broadway, was nominated for a Carbonell several years ago, and is eligible for a Tony nomination.

Speaking of Popularity Contests
The Palm Beach Post displays its abyssal ignorance with a "best theatre" poll that mixes presenting theatres, producing theaters, professional theatres and amateur playgroups into one pointless mish-mash.  Is it logical to compare a company that hires touring productions to a company that creates the production from the ground up just for South Florida?  Is it fair to compare an amateur group with people who occasionally perform for the love of it with professional craftsmen who have dedicated their lives to performance?

New Take on "Snowbird?"
The Miami Herald outlines Chicago's House Theatre production of The Sparrow, presented in partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Perfoming Arts

... in Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed.  But the Theatre Guild is keeping busy.  The Shiny Sheet covers The Palm Beach Centennial Follies, produced by The Palm Beach Theatre Guild.

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Crazy For You (2 reviews)

The Maltz Jupiter Theatre opened its revival of Crazy For You on March 29, 2011, fifteen years after the show made its extremely successful post-Broadway debut on the same stage.
Crazy for You is a high-energy musical comedy packed with mistaken identity, plot twists and fabulous dance numbers that will keep you grinning from ear to ear. Overflowing with hit Gershwin songs, including I've Got Rhythm, They Can't Take That Away From Me and Shall We Dance, this Broadway sensation crosses good, old-fashioned entertainment with a feel-good message about being true to your dreams. Who could ask for anything more?
Mike Martino directed a cast that included Matt Loehr, Vanessa Sonon, Anna McNeely, Trisha Rapier, and Michael Briar Dunn. Shea Sullivan handled the choreography.

New Theatre: The Radiant (reviews)

New Theatre opened its production of Shirley Lauro's The Radiant on March 25, 2011.
The tempestuous love-torn life of Marie Curie, one of the world's first recognized woman scientists, whose discovery and isolation of radium earned her two Nobel Prizes and revolutionized science forever, as she ushered in "The Atomic Age" and the first cure for cancer.
Ricky J. Martinez directed a cast that included Angelica Torn, Hana Kalinski, Richar-John Sekaly II, and Stephen S. Neal.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Its strongest asset is star Angelica Torn, last seen in South Florida as poet Sylvia Plath in the solo show Edge. For all that the playwright gives her to work with – stubbornness, determination, single-mindedness, passion – Torn, through her craft, finds more. The actress shows us the emotionally vulnerable woman inside the fiercely focused scientist, communicating both an active mind and a racing heart
Under Ricky J. Martinez’s direction, the New Theatre production unfolds fluidly but, at least on opening night, less than impressively. Lace panels backed by blue light suggesting the glow of radium supply a minimalist backdrop for the few pieces of furniture that make up the Rob Eastman-Mullins’ stark set. Torn seemed to be fighting K. Blair Brown’s costumes...
Miscues in multitasking director Martinez’s lighting design left both the occasional actor and the audience in the dark.

And so, too often, does a less-than-compelling play about an undeniably fascinating woman.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Lauro’s world premiere about Marie Curie, The Radiant, was earnest and heartfelt Saturday. But truckloads of exposition sank this drama in a production that bounced between listless and melodramatic under Ricky J. Martinez’s direction at New Theatre.
Torn, bless her, crawls into the skin of Curie and her performance is a steady morphing play of emotions. With Martinez and Lauro’s help, she finds lovely bits of subtext. In the opening scene, she is trying to get her husband’s pension from a corrupt sleazoid of a bursar at the Sorbonne. Torn clearly illustrates Curie’s struggle to control her outrage and shame at having to debase herself to receive what is rightfully hers.

But Torn gets little help from her castmates.
How much of the problem is Lauro and how much is Martinez is difficult to know. With all its problems, the script on paper reads better than it plays here. Martinez has delivered some terrific direction over the years (Madagascar and The Glass Menagerie come to mind), but he lets his cast, even Torn, get away with shallow work in some moments, overblown acting in others.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
New Theatre is staging the world premiere of Shirley Lauro's The Radiant and to this end they imported three New York actors:  Angelica Torn, Hana Kalinski and Richard-John Seikaly.  Seikaly, just starting in the business and still non-Equity, clearly has a future in theatre; Kalinski could have been replaced for the better by any recent NWSA graduate and Torn apparently tries to show us how it's done in the Big City.  Big mistake.
...From the moment she steps on stage as Marie Curie, twice a winner of the Nobel Prize, she gives new meaning to the term “fleeting expressions.”  By intermission I was convinced Lon Chaney, the “Man of a Thousand Faces” had returned from the drag.
Local actor Stephen S. Neal is the fourth cast member, playing four roles with his usual aplomb and accents while Angelica Torn, as a woman born in Poland and a French citizen, strangely uses only straight American except for one muttered “Mon Dieu” and is so totally unsympathetic it seems strange that any man would want to bed her.  Hana Kalinski, as Marie Curie's simpering niece, makes a pass at something European, and Richard-John Seikaly, well cast as a turn of the century lover, starts off well in the French Accent Handicap, but fades at the finish.
...The Radiant ...deserves more for its world premiere than is provided by Director Ricky J. Martinez and the New Theatre.
The Radiant plays at New Theatre through April 17, 2011.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Palm Beach Dramaworks: Dinner With Friends (5 reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends on February 25, 2011.
This candid bittersweet Pulitzer Prize winning play examines two married couples who have been close friends for years, and what happens when one marriage falls apart.
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that included Jim Ballard, Eric Martin Brown, Erin Joy Schmidt, and Sarah Grace Wilson.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Perhaps, if you've chosen a life of monastic celibacy or hermetic isolation, you may find nothing relatable in Dinner With Friends, currently enjoying a superlative revival at Palm Beach Dramaworks. But for the rest of us – the majority of the population who yearn for human contact and love, well aware of the devastating risks they engender – Donald Margulies' acute dramedy is a shattering portrait of domestic conflict and its inevitable ripples.
It helps that Dramaworks' cast, divided equally between South Florida regulars and out-of-towners, is so impeccable. Ballard has never been better as Gabe, bringing the play's least showy, most reclusive character to vivid life. Wilson, in her Florida acting debut as Beth, strikes a perfect balance between her polarized archetypes: the emotionally bruised victim and, in the play's second act, a new woman radiating self-confidence.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
At Palm Beach Dramaworks, the insightful, resonant script is getting a new and beautifully acted production under the graceful direction of J. Barry Lewis.
Ballard, Schmidt, Wilson and Brown coalesce into an artful ensemble. Ballard’s Gabe is the loyal husband who tries to do the right thing, even as he sometimes says words guaranteed to set the more volatile Karen off. Schmidt makes Karen almost incredulous at Beth’s giddy emotional rebirth, which seems a kind of affront to Karen’s internalized rules for living. Wilson and Brown get the fun of acting a relationship out of order: first, the passion-fueled angry breakup; then, a return to their first meeting as strangers; finally, personal rebirth, though at a cost to their children. The work of both actors is subtle and lovely.
And here's something I've never seen in reference to scenery at Dramaworks; a bad review:
The one thing about the production that doesn’t work is set designer Vince Mountain’s solution to creating multiple locations on Dramaworks’ small stage. He uses moveable modules – wooden benches that can be reconfigured as seating, tables, beds or a bar – against the backdrop of plain bare walls and windows. The look is spare and unattractive, unsuited to the materialistic world in which a longtime friendship is shifting and, ultimately, crumbling.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Director J. Barry Lewis and a skilled ensemble bring Margulies’ subversive nightmare into such blinding daylight that many couples will go home examining their own relationship...
The performances are superbly naturalistic; you never catch anyone acting. All four actors create people so recognizable that they might well be your neighbors.
Ballard has the least showy of the roles which makes his work all the more impressive as he clings to the belief that you work through the rough spots in any relationship.
But it’s Schmidt who takes the prize with her perfection-obsessed, eternally chatty Karen who is unaware that she focuses on chopping up vegetables for dinner so that she can ignore the scream of inner demons. The actress has a quirky mélange of high and low registers, pure and scratchy timbres. But she uses them to spin Margulies’ simple language with inventive inflections and intonations that are simultaneously unexpected and yet completely familiar from our own conversations.
...this is almost repetitive, but Lewis is one of the finest directors for intimate drama working in South Florida, possibly in regional theater, period. He consistently elicits nuanced performances that seemingly leave no crevice of the script unexplored or illustrated. His staging is so organic and naturalistic that only a trained theater professional can see his hand at work.
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
...a gut-wrenching and often quite funny production, directed by J. Barry Lewis, that has echoes of such earlier works there as Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Michael Frayn’s Benefactors.
... Erin Joy Schmidt, recently seen in Goldie, Max & Milk, is a standout as stubbornly loyal, yet parentally controlling Karen. Jim Ballard’s Gabe is less judgmental, more conflicted and ultimately more burdened by the fate he had chosen for himself. Sarah Grace Wilson (Beth) and Eric Martin Brown (Tom) are husband and wife in real life, which may explain the authenticity of their first-act verbal battle royal.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Director J. Barry Lewis shapes the play’s crescendos and pianissimos with discernment.
...subdued lighting and Jim Ballard’s eloquent body language are all that’s needed to convey Gabe’s devastation...
Erin Joy Schmidt’s Karen can be tiresomely emphatic, but she’s not without courage...
The production aspects of the show are a mixed bag. Joseph Oshry’s eloquent lighting, Brian O’Keefe’s character-revealing costumes and Tom Shorrock’s emotive sound design strengthen the production. By contrast, Vincent Mountain’s bare-bones modular scenic design fades into the woodwork.
Dinner With Friends plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through April 17, 2011.