Monday, December 31, 2012

Mondays are Dark

It's the last Monday of 2012, and of course, there are lots of stories looking back at the past year.  And what a year it's been, with well-loved companies unexpectedly closing their doors, and a few new companies popping up.  The Scene continues, even if the players change.

Speaking of changing, we're still looking for photos of empty theaters to include at the top of this column every week.  YOUR theater. Yes, you!  Get a camera, and snap a photo, and send it in; heck, post it to our page in Facebook.  Or let us know where to look.

Today's "dark" theater is a shot of the set being put together for Mad Cat Theatre's production of Christina Wong's Cat Lady, opening this week at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.

Now here's your final reading list for 2012:

BWW's Year in Review
Broadway World tends to treat Florida as one giant neighborhood (when it isn't treating Fort Lauderdale and Miami as two different theater worlds), but their recap includes a lot of South Florida stories.

The View From Palm Beach
Palm Beach ArtsPaper managed to get as far south as Coral Gables for its year-end story, and points out there were gains as well as losses.
Institutionally speaking, we lost the Caldwell Theatre, as well as Promethean and the Mosaic, but there were also gains, like Parade Productions, the Plaza Theatre, Outré Theatre Co. and The Theatre at Arts Garage.
But mostly it was "a year of standout musicals and Pulitzer prize winners."

The View from Wall Street
Once again, Terry Teachout, an honest-to-god Broadway theatre critic, managed to make time check out the South Florida theatre scene, and finds it noteworthy enough to mention in his yearly wrap-up for The Wall Street Journal:
Elsewhere in America, Chicago's Goodman Theatre outdid itself with Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy and directed by Robert Falls. No less memorable, though, were Paul Zindel's rarely seen The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, poignantly produced by Palm Beach Dramaworks, and an equally rare and satisfying revival of Warren Leight's Side Man by 1st Stage of Tyson's Corners, Va., which operates out of a strip mall.
Just In Case and Keeping It Together
Although we've included these links before, it just seems right that we should include the wrap-ups from Florida Theater On Stage and, of course, The Miami Herald, the only regional daily still covering the arts and thus the only major daily worth reading.

On Opening Nights
Critics tend to see opening night performances so they can get the word out early.  But while it may be a necessary thing, it's not necessarily the best night to see a play, as Florida  Theater On Stage explains.
Often shows improve markedly after opening because casts and crews have such a short period to ramp up a production in South Florida regional theaters. It’s usually about two and half weeks of rehearsals, three weeks if they’re lucky.
Of  course, those of us who have worked inside the industry know this.  One reason that The Scene doesn't do reviews is that a certain site administrator prefers to see the shows later in the run, when they've had to time to finish cooking; that's too late to benefit the production with a review.  That, and our tendency to compartmentalize.

The Heck with LAST Year, Mad Cat's Opening a Show!
miamiartzine looks into Mad Cat's production of Christina Wong's Cat Lady.
"It is my story as much as it is given to the other people in the show and to the audience throughout the course of the performance," says Wong, who stars in Cat Lady. "It's a story about finding a genuine connection in a world of artifice. Where does human connection exist? And how much of our interactions with people are scripted performance?"
And guess who got cast?
Veteran actor Ken Clement plays Oliver, the Cat. When he was offered the role by the show's director, Paul Tei, who is also the founder and artistic director of Mad Cat Theatre Company, Clement recalls their conversation. " ' Let's take a risk, what do you say?' " He continues: "The great thing about Mad Cat is that the company never does the same thing and we never play it safe..."
Speaking of Veteran Actors
Florida Theater On Stage interviews Angie Radosh.
What show do you wish somebody down here would produce?  
Oh, there are so many….The Cherry Orchard, Picnic, The Royal Family, Harvey, Mother Courage, Lion In Winter, Ghosts, Death Of A Salesman, anything by Williams. I’m hooked on those classics, but I know that cast size makes many of them impossible to produce.
We've actually seen some of those shows on South Florida stages, but not recently; Caldwell's The Cherry Orchard was incredibly fresh, and The Lion In Winter played at the long-defunct Stage.  It's time to bring them back, so that a new generation can see what all the fuss was about.

A New Kind of Seat
Minnesota Public Radio reports that The Guthrie Theater is jumping on the all-internet-all-the-time bandwagon.
Today the Guthrie announced that a dedicated section of the audience will actually be encouraged to 'tweet' during performances of the Italian comedy The Servant of Two Masters.

These "tweet seats" as they're called, will be available for four consecutive Thursday evening performances, beginning December 27. They're located on the balcony level of the McGuire proscenium stage, so as not to be disruptive to other theater-goers.
The Gauntlet is Thrown
Parabasis weighs in on this new phenomenon in a post entitled Attention Must Be Paid.  Can you guess where he's going with this?
Tweet Seats-- particularly absent any real change in programming-- is just empty, gimmicky bullshit. What's more, it's insulting, the way most condescending panders to demographic groups are insulting.
So I have a counter proposal for theaters trying out tweet seats: Why don't you  try to do a show where both the play and the production are of such quality that someone who is tempted by their phone will want to watch from start to finish without jumping on the internet? And then, rather than sabotage it in the hopes that you can turn your audience into unpaid marketing labor for it, why don't you figure out a way to price it and market it so that the people you intended it for will want to come see it?
Heck, the Theatre Scene supports social media marketing - heck, we even participate in it - but we agree that shows are better served when patrons post their experiences AFTER the show, or during INTERMISSION.  If the show is any damned good at all, no one should be tempted to pull out their phone. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Scene for December 28, 2012

Here we are: the final weekend of theatre for 2012.

It's been a very busy year, lots of really memorable shows; but three companies closed.  Broward County has lost its only resident Equity theater company, Mosaic Theater.  Promethean wasn't a major company, but produced excellent shows, and the venerable Caldwell Theater Company ended three decades of legendary production.  We've also seen some new players

If you're looking for something to do for New Year's Eve, it looks like the Stage Door Theatre has shows at its Broward and Miami Beach locations on the day, as does the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.  Also, we happen to know that there are still seats available for B.B. King at the Broward Center; not really theatre, but hey, it's B.B. King.

Here's what's playing on The Scene this last weekend of 2012:


Broward Stage Door opens The World Goes 'Round on January 28, 2012.

you still haven't missed...

A Delicate Balance plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 6, 2013.

If you find yourself in Key West, check out The 39 Steps at The Waterfront Playhouse.

Kravis Center for the Performing Arts has settled with the stagehands' union, so Jersey Boys is now playing through January 6. Expect very full houses due to the shows canceled during the strike.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center presents Broadway Songbook December 28-29.

Capital Steps plays New Year's Eve at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

Carlos y Marta plays Saturday at Area Stage.

last chance to see...

Somehow we missed Crash Box Theatre Company's production of Unleashed when it opened at Empire Stage on December 13.  It closes this Saturday, December 29.

Actors' Playhouse's critically lauded The Last Five Years ends its run at the Miracle Theater on December 30, 2012.

Luv winds it up at the Plaza Theatre this Sunday, December 30, 2012.

The National Tour of Sister Act finishes its run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this Sunday, December 30.  Word of mouth has been very positive about this show.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Exit, Pursued by Bear through December 30, 2012.

The granddaddy of all musicals, Showboat, plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through December 31, 2012

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre's production of Side by Side by Sondheim plays at the Byron Carlysle Theater through December 31, 2012.

The Arsht Center presents the totally non-ballet House Theatre production of The Nutcracker through December 30, 2012.

Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Nunsense A-men through December 31.

for kids...

Miami Children's Theatre presents The Little Mermaid Jr. through December 30.

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater through January 12.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Off Stage Conversations

Hello everyone. It's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with Off Stage Conversations, where I note articles and topics of interest in the national and international theatre scene.

Responding to Newtown

Linda Essig writes on how the arts can respond to tragedy. She writes, "The arts have a unique capacity – and now, I think, a duty – to build that culture of love and empathy." What theatre can we create that can help build bridges and change the world?

Jason Loewith (the executive director of the National New Play Network) has a particular programming suggestion and says "if we believe our art changes lives, we must act accordingly, swiftly and decisively, and put on plays that respond to this national tragedy."

Niche is Good

Lee Liebeskind of 2amtheatre writes about how we as theatre artists can better engage with our audiences by narrowing who we target. Instead of trying to reach everyone, isn't it better to reach a particular someone? He also makes very valid points on larger institutions mentoring smaller institutions and the use of social media.


David J. Loehr writes on the importance of listening for TheatreFace.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mondays are Dark

If Mondays in general are dark, holiday Mondays may be darkest of all; but not really.  They just dim besides the warmth and cheer of family gathered to celebrate.   Which is a roundabout way of explaining why this week's reading list is so late.

This week's "dark" theater is not as dark this week as it was last week; it's Dreyfoos Hall at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.  Last week the union shut down the center, preventing the national tour of Jersey Boys from opening as the show would not cross the picket line.  The center has finally signed a new contract with the union, ending 12 years of conflict and allowing the hit show to open.

And now for your Monday reading list:

Year-end Wraps
The Miami Herald and Florida Theater On Stage  agree that the biggest news this past year are loss of three theater companies; while the Caldwell collapsed under mounting debt, debt-free Promethean closed because fundraising was getting more difficult, and  Mosaic closed because its artistic director wanted to be able to spend time with his family instead of fundraising 80 hours a week.  But everyone agrees that there was a lot of good news, too.  Miami New Times reports that theatre in Miami-Dade county is better than ever.

Look to the Rooftops!
BroadwayWorld reminds us that Mary Poppins is coming to The Arsht Center next week.

Look to the Future
Florida Theater On Stage reports that Slow Burn Theatre Company has announced selections for its next season.

How about Sets?
The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the set design in the digital age.  We don't know why.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Scene for December 21, 2013 (updated)

It's the end of the world as we know it - provided you believe the current misinterpretation of the Mayan baktun cycle being passed around the inter-webs.  Or if you work at the Kravis Center.

Yes, things are getting ugly at Palm Beach's union-busting Performing Arts Center; twelve years of violating their union contract has finally come home to roost as IATSE local 500 pickets the center, and the incoming tour (comprised of members of at least two different unions) refuses to cross the picket lines.

Which means that more scheduled performances have had to be canceled, according to The Palm Beach Post.  The Kravis Center, in its characteristically arrogant fashion, has tried to pin the blame everywhere but where it belongs - on the management of the Kravis Center.  Every decision they've made since they chose to violate their contract with the union has led inexorably to this strike.

NOTE: the strike was settled on December 21, allowing Jersey Boys to open Saturday, December 22.

In the meantime, there are loads of other shows playing on the Scene - go see them.


The National Tour of Sister Act plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through December 30 - and no pickets on their horizon.  It looks like this will be the only national tour opening in South Florida this week.

Kravis Center for the Performing Arts has settled with the stagehands' union, clearing the way for Jersey Boys to open this weekend.  Expect a very full run through January 6.

If you find yourself in Key West, check out The 39 Steps at The Waterfront Playhouse.

you still haven't missed...

Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Nunsense A-men through December 31.

Actors' Playhouse presents The Last Five Years at the Miracle Theater through December 30, 2012.

A Delicate Balance plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 6, 2013.

Luv plays at the Plaza Theatre through December 30, 2012.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Exit, Pursued by Bear through December 30, 2012.

The granddaddy of all musicals, Showboat, plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through December 31, 2012

The Arsht Center presents the totally non-ballet House Theatre production of The Nutcracker through December 30, 2012.

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre's production of Side by Side by Sondheim plays at the Byron Carlysle Theater through December 31, 2012.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

last chance to see...

Parade Productions presents The Santaland Diaries at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through December 23, 2012.

Miami Theater Company presents Imaginarium in its Sandbox studio through December 22.

Three Sisters winds up its run at Miami Theater Center this December 22, 2012.

community and conservatory...

New World School of the Arts presents The One Project through Saturday.

New Theatre presents The Miami 1-Act Festival Winter Session at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through Sunday

for kids...

Sol Children's Theatre Troupe
presents The Commedia Christmas Carol through Sunday, December 23.

A Christmas Carol, The Musical returns to Actors' Playhouse, through December 23.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents The Nutcracker at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, through December 30 - this is not a ballet!!

Miami Children's Theatre presents The Little Mermaid Jr. through December 30.

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater through January 12.

Kravis Capitulates, signs new contract with IATSE

IATSE has announced that the Kravis Center and Local 500 have agreed to a new five year contract, and that work will commence immediately on Jersey Boys.

It's going to be a jolly holiday for a lot of people.  Congratulations to both sides.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miami Beach Stage Door: Side by Side By Sondheim (3 reviews)

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Side by Side by Sondheim on November 30, 2012.
Musical revue of early and mid-career songs of the greatest musical theater writer, whose work include Gypsy, West Side Story, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum and many more.
Kevin Black directed a cast that included Shane Tanner, Don Stansfield, Priscilla Fernandez, and Lynn Wilhite.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

So many of the songs coming from the stage at the Byron Carlyle Theatre (where Stage Door performs) are clever, tuneful, ironic or downright gorgeous. And more often than not, the four-member cast — Priscilla Fernandez, Shane R. Tanner, Don Stansfield and Lynn Wilhite — performs them well.
With his rich, robust voice and easy charm, Tanner becomes the show’s anchor and one of its strongest assets. The wistful I Remember from the made-for-TV musical Evening Primrose is a hauntingly beautiful solo. Tanner also delivers a biting Could I Leave You? (traditionally sung by a woman) from Follies and makes it his own.
Fernandez, who impressively handles the rapid-fire tour de force that is Getting Married Today from Company, is also a vocal standout.
Stage Door’s Side by Side by Sondheim is neither elaborate nor flawless. But for devotees of that influential composer-lyricist, an artist who has created such eclectic and enduring work, it’s as much a holiday treat as A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or (thank you, Irving Berlin) White Christmas.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Sond-heads will savor this retrospective of his early and mid-career works lovingly offered up by a cast of talented singers under the staging of Kevin Black and musical direction of Caryl Fantel. But casual theatergoers will also appreciate his genius because the revue takes the numbers out of narrative and theatrical context; that highlights Sondheim’s technical skill, intellectual nimbleness and, contrary to reputation, the emotions simmering underneath.
Tanner especially is a pleasure because his warm, expressive baritone excavates the dramatic meaning from what a less skilled person would deliver just as a cabaret ballad...  He also carries those leading man looks with a light grace that makes him one of those actors you look forward to seeing in the cast roster of a musical.
The rest of the cast has its standout moments: Fernandez revels in the wry brothel madam’s song “I Never Do Anything Twice” pared down to almost nothing in the Sherlock Holmes film, The Seven Percent Solution...  Stansfield is droll as the third Andrews sister in the female trio song “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” and as the sardonically dry husband in a rocky marriage “We’re Gonna Be All Right” from Do I Hear A Waltz...  Wilhite, still finishing her MFA at FAU, exudes a winsome engaging personality as she belts “Broadway Baby” and plays off her castmates in “The Little Things (You Do Together)” and “If Momma Was Married” from Gypsy.  She shows a lot of promise..
Black’s staging is pretty straight-forward with actors strutting and strolling over steps and platforms in front of posters of Sondheim shows. Instead, he and Fantel have concentrated on ensuring a smooth presentation of the music. It would take an aficionado to notice, but they have cannily slowed the tempo of a few numbers just a whit to ensure that the glorious lyrics are understood.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
It's a relaxing and enjoyable night of song with a capable four-person ensemble that performs the singing duties as well as doling out tidbits of pieces about one of modern musical theaters most prolific and lauded composers.
Stage Door's production features two pianists with their backs to the audience on each side of the stage playing uprights (Caryl Fantel and Mary Anne Morro's magnificent piano playing is as fun to watch as the performers).
The first duet is from Gypsy, with Priscilla Fernandez and Lynn Wilhite singing If Mamma Were Married. The two voices blend well in the storytelling piece about what life would be like for two sisters if their doting mother would be married off. Fernandez ends up being the stand out in the show and we get a glimpse of that with her vocal and interpretative mastery of the fast-paced tongue twister Getting Married Today from Company early in the first act.
Shane R. Tanner is the other stand out in the ensemble. His haunting I Remember... and wonderful interpretation of Could I Leave You? (Follies), usually sung by a woman who seeks a divorce from her husband, are both beautifully theatrical.
Don Stansfield is able to show off his comic sensibilities in nonsensical situations, which are crowd pleasers...
Director and choreographer Kevin Black keeps the show moving and finds places to insert some rich and lively moments to offer necessary context of the stand-alone tunes...  Stage Door's production is solid, fun and accessible and is sure to leave you humming a tune or two all the way home whether you knew them when you walked in the door or not.
Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre presents Side by Side by Sondheim at the Byron Carlysle Theater through December 23, 2012.

Parade Productions: The Santaland Diaries (2 reviews)

Parade Productions opened its production of The Santaland Diaries on December 13, 2012.
David Sedaris' wickedly funny account of his days at Macy's SantaLand, working as a holiday Elf. Adapted by Tony-award winner Joe Mantello with sardonic glee, this is a spiked cup of holiday eggnog that's decidedly for grownups.

This play is NOT recommended for children.
Kim St. Leon directed Michael McKeever as Crumpet.

Gideon Grudo reviewd for South Florida Gay News:
Award-winning Michael McKeever delivers a non-stop thrill ride of humor-laced stories, sometimes dark and sometimes cheery...  Don’t expect to sit silently at this show, as McKeever draws you in enthusiastically to partake in the holiday spirit, chanting Santa’s name.
The stage and lighting draw the show into perfect focus, keeping your eyes on Crumpet the entire time. During the darker moments, you’ll find yourself floating along with Crumpet’s emotional stirrings, the dark red lights around you affecting it all. From giant candy canes to stuff animals to Santa’s giant chair, the stage is set for Crumpet’s pseudo-confessional.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The 70-minute monologue is delivered once again by the irresistibly amiable actor/playwright/designer/bookbinder/candlemaker Michael McKeever. Even with a new director here, Kim St. Leon, this is McKeever’s third run at the material including one last winter at Zoetic Stage that McKeever helped found in Miami. As we said then, “McKeever is inspired casting, not just because of his slight stature, but because of his blend of genial charm and beleaguered helplessness at the absurdities that the temp job heaps upon his sensibilities.” If his martini-swilling elf is visibly one additional year disgusted with bureaucracy dehumanizing the joys of the holiday, McKeever hasn’t flagged and his work here may even be better than last year.
Parade Productions presents The Santaland Diaries at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through December 23, 2012.

Why JERSEY BOYS Didn't Open Last Night

If you're one of the thousands of South Floridians who had been planning on attending Jersey Boys at its stop at the Kravis Center, you're probably wondering why they had to cancel the show, as announced in the Palm Beach Post.

Just so we're all crystal clear on this, it's all the Kravis Center's fault.  Twelve years ago, Kravis Center management violated the contract they had with the stagehand's union, IATSE Local 500.  There was no cause, there were no negotiations that broke down, management simply broke their contract and locked out their crew.

Of course, there was a lawsuit; the courts found in favor of the union: Kravis Center  lost. The union took their complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, which found that the Kravis Center had violated federal labor law; they ordered the Kravis Center to honor their contract; Kravis Center appealed, and again, they lost.  There are at least two court orders directing the Kravis Center to reinstate the crew and to pay them the wages they should have been making since Kravis Center illegally locked them out; the center has refused to comply.

The bottom line is that the Kravis Center is absolutely in the wrong here; they broke the law, and have continuously thumbed their noses at the rulings of the district court, the NRLB, and the appellate court. 

And the Kravis Center's arrogant and frankly stupid decision is harming other businesses in the neighborhood:
The last thing Pampas Grille Chef Thomas Fisher needs right now are empty tables.

"I have a newborn baby on the way that's due in May," said Fisher. "Tips are a big part of my paycheck."

The restaurant is finding out what life is like without 2,200 people who want dinner before an 8 o'clock curtain.
This strike was completely avoidable; all Kravis Center had to do was accept that they are in the wrong, and follow the directive of the courts.  They've had twelve years to resolve this, but instead took every opportunity to savage their relationship with an organization that should be their partner. 

So of course the union is picketing the show; Jersey Boys is a cash machine, and every day the show isn't performing, Kravis Center is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of the $2.6 million dollars they are going to eventually have to hand over to the stagehands.  Eventually, one of the Broadway tours was going to come in, and refuse to cross the picket of their Union brothers and sisters.  The biggest and best Broadway tours all use IATSE labor; it's
inconceivable that any competent manager could believe that this wasn't
going to be a problem at some point.

Kravis Center recklessly pursued a path destined to fail, and their patrons and business partners are paying the price for their foolish arrogance.  So if you feel like you've been screwed, it's Kravis Center what done it; call them and complain.

In the meantime, Sister Act is just down the road at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts,  it's a lively show with plenty of good seats left; and they have an excellent partnership with the union.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Broward Center: Sister Act (3 reviews)

The national tour of Sister Act opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on December 18, 2012.
Sister Act is Broadway's feel-amazing musical comedy smash!  Featuring original music by 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors), Sister Act tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look - a convent! Under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. A sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, Sister Act is reason to rejoice!
Jerry Zaks directed a cast that included Ta'Rea Campbell, Hollis Resnik, Florrie Bagel, Charles Barksdale, Kingsley Leggs, E. Clayton Cornelious, Diane J. Findlay, Todd A. Horman, Richard Pruitt, Ernie Pruneda, and Lael Van Keuren.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There is something about nuns singing and dancing in a very un-nun-like way that never gets old.  Just look at Sister Act, part of the recent rash of screen to stage adaptations. Sister Act stays true to its cinematic roots while enhancing the story with a soulful, jubilant score and fun lyrics.
Campbell plays Deloris with panache, peppering her character with sass and vulnerability. She is a powerful yet approachable performer...  Resnick gets many of the best lines as the strict, clever Mother Superior, and her solo, “Haven’t Got a Prayer”, is a highlight of the show. Lael Van Keuren is terrific as the meek postulate Mary Robert, and her voice rattles the rafters in her show-stopping solo “The Life I Never Led”.

Kingsley Leggs is the perfect 1970s blaxploition bad guy as Curtis, Deloris’s boyfriend, and he gets perhaps the funniest song in the show, the smooth anti-love song, “When I Find My Baby.” E. Clayton Cornelious, as Eddie, the cop who’s sweet on Deloris, brings the soul in his solo “I Could Be That Guy,” which feels like an outtake from “Soul Train.”  “The Lady in the Long Black Dress” is an homage to the 1977 song “Float On” by The Floaters, and is comically performed by Curtis’s henchmen. All of these guys would make Don Cornelius proud.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Artspaper:
As a pre-sold title because of the movie and with a 14-month run on Broadway, Sister Act has hit the road and from the reaction to Tuesday evening’s opening performance, it is satisfying audiences out for feather-light entertainment. The music is peppy, the cast has talent to spare and no one was expecting another Sound of Music, were they?
Ta’Rea Campbell ably carries the show as Deloris, with a killer punch line delivery and the vocal cords to grab and keep our attention. She plays well off of Hollis Resnik as the put-upon Mother Superior who is plunged into a crisis of faith by Deloris’s arrival. Resnik gets the most conventional show tunes (Here Within These Walls, Haven’t Got a Prayer), and climbs every mountain with them. Other standouts in support are E. Clayton Cornelious as a nervous cop with a crush on Deloris and Lael van Keuren as the requisite young postulant who learns to stand up for herself.

Jerry Zaks took over the direction of Sister Act as it lurched towards Broadway, giving the show his signature speed. This is not a show that will have a long shelf life, but if the family is looking for something to see this holiday season, Sister Act should suffice.
Howard Cohen reviewed wrote for The Miami Herald:
Sister Act s plot adapts Joseph Howard s 1992 screenplay but Cheri and Bill Steinkellner s book, with a savvy overhaul by Douglas Carter Beane, streamlines it for the stage and Jerry Zaks exuberant direction propels the story forward. After she sees married lover Curtis whack one of his goons, Deloris seeks protection from Eddie, a sweet cop who has had designs on the diva since high school. Eddie stashes Deloris at the Queen of Angels convent, against the objections of the no-nonsense Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik, who has superior comic timing.)
...costume designer Lez Brotherston and set designer Klara Zieglerova have the cast, who all have terrific voices, shaking their groove things before a giant, dazzling statue of the Virgin Mary. They must have spent a fortune on this production.
And that's all we get; one performer has "superior comic timing," and everyone has "terrific voices" under the director's "exuberant direction." 

This is one of the most worthless reviews we've read in awhile; we understand that Christine Dolen deserves the occasional vacation, but why do we have to suffer such terrible writing in her absence?  The Herald should be ashamed of itself for publishing such a shoddy excuse of a review, considering they now expect us to pay for their online content.

Sister Act plays at the Broward Center through December 30, 2012.

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, it's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with this week's installment of Off Stage Conversations, where I look at what ideas are being talked about in the national and international theatre community.

The Power of Stories

Good has an inspiring piece on how the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we consume drive our culture -- if we want change in the world, we need to change the stories we tell, most importantly on our stages.

Storefront Playwrights

The League of Chicago Theatres and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs have banded together to showcase playwrights at work. Literally.

The Arts Cliff

Michael Kaiser wrote a piece on the arts organization fiscal cliff, saying that austerity spending cuts aren't the answer to an arts organization's problems, but instead diversify and increase funding.

Diane Ragsdale has a response on Arts Journal, saying that there are bigger cliffs facing the future of arts organization, highlighting the arts education, diversity, and leadership. Ragsdale points out that a great deal of the revenue problems stem from these larger problems.

Smart Phone and Arts Patrons

A study on how arts patrons use their mobile devices. A lot of useful stuff here with one REALLY GREAT idea at the end -- arts administrators (who tend to be huge arts consumers) should experiment with ideas at other organization's arts events, as a way to test the user experience. (Obviously, don't live tweet a performance that isn't set up for that, but I think the best way to learn how to use something is to try it and I see a lot of arts organizations forget that social media is social.)

Do I Want an MFA?

Polly Carl of HowlRound posts on the benefits and drawbacks of seeking an MFA.

How to Watch Directing

Jon Jorry, former artistic director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, has a great piece on how to watch directing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mondays are Dark

It's the week before Christmas, and all the actors are stirring - it's been a very busy season so far.

Today's dark theater is the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami.  Also known as The Gusman Center, this is a real movie palace from the 1920's, with all its glory intact.  Critical Miami took a tour through this landmark, and posted lots of pictures.

Now here's your Monday reading list:

Road Show for the Holidays
Sister Act is opens at the Broward Center this week, and The Miami Herald and miamiartzine both tell us about the show that started as a movie.

Actual Holiday Show
The Examiner reports that The Alliance Theatre Lab has teamed up with the Main Street Players to produce Carol's Christmas Carol.
Carol Ginsberg has taken over this year's winter celebration at the Wilson Community Center. With help from her family and friends Carol is putting up her first show on her own. Will the show go off without a hitch or will her need to control every aspect make her lose her friends along the way?
Getting It Together
Stage Directions takes a look at the process of putting together a new theatre piece.

Not Just for Summers
City Theater offers three play readings, starting in January.  BroadwayWorld has the details.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Broward Stage Door Theatre: Show Boat (2 reviews)

The Broward Stage Door Theatre opened its production the classic musical Showboat on December 7, 2012.
The work of composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, it was based on a novel by Edna Ferber, and told a love story that was entirely homegrown, between a seductive gambler and the daughter of a show boat captain who runs a sailing casino on the Mississippi.

Kern’s lovely melodies and Hammerstein’s incisive lyrics have long ensured the success of songs like “Ol’ Man River,” “Only Make Believe” and “Bill,” which today belong as much to the American vernacular as they do to the stage folklore.
Dan Kelly directs a cast that includes Colleen Amaya, Todd McIntyre, Deirdra Grace, Edwin Watson, Sally Bondi, Eric Weaver,  Rose Ouellette, Nicolette Violet Sweeny, Sheira Feuerstein, and Richard Brundage.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...audiences just wanting to hear Kern’s rich melody and sweeping underscoring tied to Hammerstein’s deceptively simple but deeply evocative lyrics will relish what Stage Door has wrought.
Kelley is an experienced stager of musical theater, but this edition of Show Boat has a disappointing run-of-the-mill feel: People just stand still and belt. The acting is never convincing no matter how good the material might be.
But musically, Kelley has chosen a solid crew and the dependable musical director David Nagy has done his customary top-flight job molding the cast, especially in the choral numbers.
Amaya... has a shimmering slivery soprano perfectly suited to the score. As with 98 percent of all actresses playing Magnolia, she’s a tad too old for the opening of the show and a tad too young to be convincing at the end of this 40-year-saga. But with her Audrey Hepburn looks and Barbara Cook voice, she admirably provides the show with a center.

Similarly, MacIntyre blesses his songs with a smooth robust voice, although we’ve never heard of a tenor doing these numbers usually performed by a baritone... his caress of “Make Believe” and “You Are Love” are undeniably assured and lovely.
Edwin Watson, as the deckhand Joe, nails the world-weary “Ol’ Man River’ with that sonorous baritone-bass, one of the highlights of this production.
A special nod to Nicolette Violette Sweeney who spends most of the show as an ensemble member. But she provides the first electricity in the show in the penultimate scene when the lovers’ grown daughter Kim leads the company in Ardito’s kick butt Charleston number.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Director Dan Kelley and choreographer Chrissi Ardito deliver the show’s drama, comedy and dance with flair, and Kelley has cast leads with powerful voices.
Standouts in that large cast are Colleen Amaya as Magnolia Hawks, the clarion-voiced daughter of the showboat’s owners; Todd MacIntyre as Magnolia’s suitor, gambler Gaylord Ravenal; Deirdra Grace as the ship’s cook, Queenie, who sings a chilling Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’; Edwin Watson as Queenie’s husband, Joe, the deep-voiced singer of Ol’ Man River; Sally Bondi as Magnolia’s judgmental, comically domineering mother, Parthy Ann; Eric Weaver and Rose Ouellette as the Cotton Blossom’s featured dance team; and, in a short-but-sweet turn, Nicolette Violet Sweeney as Magnolia and Gaylord’s grown daughter, Kim, a peppy ’20s Broadway star.
What needs some urgent attention is Liza Mascaro’s sound design. The balance between the live vocals and recorded music was sometimes wildly off at Wednesday’s matinee, so much so that lyrics were unintelligible. And when the lyricist is Hammerstein, that’s a crime.
Showboat plays at the Broward Stage Door through December 31, 2013

The Scene for December 14, 2012

We hope you're having a wonderful Hanukkah.

Of course, there are a number of us who are mourning the unexpected closing of Mosaic Theater.  But if you check out their Facebook page, you'll find former performers celebrating 12 years of wonderful memories.

We'd be remiss if we didn't take this opportunity to mention yesterday's Off Stage Conversations, in which Andie Arthur offers articles dealing with the issues of fundraising, board development, and artistic succession.  She's been mulling over this problem since the Caldwell closed, and it's her hope the South Florida Theatre League can develop a program to assist area theaters in planning for the future.

Here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


Parade Productions offers Michael McKeever in The Santaland Diaries through December 23.  If you can't watch David Sedaris do it - and you can't - this is the next best thing.

Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Nunsense A-men through December 31.

you still haven't missed...

Miami Theater Company presents Imaginarium in its Sandbox studio through December 22.

Actors' Playhouse presents The Last Five Years at the Miracle Theater through December 30, 2012.

A Delicate Balance plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 6, 2013.

Luv plays at the Plaza Theatre through December 30, 2012.

The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Exit, Pursued by Bear through December 30, 2012.

The granddaddy of all musicals, Showboat, plays at the Broward Stage Door Theatre through December 31, 2012

The Arsht Center presents the totally non-ballet House Theatre production of The Nutcracker through December 30, 2012.

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre opens Side By Side By Sondheim; and they've finally got it up on their their website. In the five seconds the slide is in place, we can see that it runs through December 31.

Three Sisters plays at Miami Theater Center through December 22, 2012.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

Steve Solomon is back in My Mother's Italian, My Mother's Jewish... and I'm Home for the Holidays at the Kravis Center December 17-19

last chance to see...

New Theatre's world premiere of Happy plays at the Roxy Performing Arts Center through December 16, 2012.

Showtime Boca has launched its Adult Series with [title of show].  It plays through December 16.

The Music Man plays at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through December 16, 2012.

conservatory & community...

Auntie Mame plays at the Curtain Call Playhouse through December 16.

New World School of the Arts offers a full schedule of theater with The Plebians Rehearse the Uprising, which runs this weekend, as well as the musical Wonderful Town, and The Play's The Thing, selected works of Shakespeare, which run through December 16.

The West Boca Theatre Company
presents Women's Minyan at the Levis JCC, through December 16.

The Sound Of Music plays at the Delray Beach Playhouse through December 16.

for kids...

Area Stage Company offers James and the Giant Peach through December 16.

A Christmas Carol, The Musical returns to Actors' Playhouse, through December 23.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents The Nutcracker at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, through December 30 - this is not a ballet!!

Miami Children's Theatre presents The Little Mermaid Jr. through December 30.

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater through January 12.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Off Stage Conversations

Hey Everyone, it's Andie Arthur again with this week's installment of Off Stage Conversations, where I gather articles on issues facing the national and international theatre community and relate how they can provide insight to what's happening in South Florida.

Before we get into this week, I want to acknowledge that I'm deeply saddened by the loss of Mosaic Theatre Company. Normally Chris covers local issues in Mondays are Dark, but Florida Theater On Stage had a follow up article on the closing, with some insight from the board's point of view. Most of the articles I gathered for this week relate to fundraising, board development, and artistic succession -- primarily gathered before I knew about the closing, but now seen in a different light.

Fundraising and the Fiscal Cliff

Steve Maclaughlin looks at the current state of non-profit fundraising in the United States, addressing common myths with data and ideas to continue building a donor base.

And Clayton Lord has a piece on re-framing the conversation on tax deductions for charities, which is a part of the larger fiscal cliff discussion. Lord's piece also has some great data on how vital individual giving is for the arts -- it accounts for 50% of contributed revenue according to Grantmakers in the Arts -- which is a great talking point when you call your senators and congress people to tell them that you support keeping tax deductions for charities.

Engaging Audiences from the Board Perspective

Last week, Pete Miller (on the board of Woolly Mammoth Theatre, which is one of the major theatres in DC) stated that he wanted to triple audience attendance by 2020. He's followed up that idea with a bunch of concepts on how the American theatre can reach that goal: getting audiences involved in their own readings, working with arts service organizations to do promotional events, recognizing readings as an opportunity for audience development, have the cast interact with the audience before and after the show, and create an online platform that supports the community of audiences, similar to other hobby communities online. Some of these I support, some I'm more skeptical about -- but either way, it's really great to see a board member so incredibly engaged with the field as a whole. Are South Florida boards asking these types of questions and thinking about the field in this way?

Victory Gardens Theater: An Artistic Transition Case Study

The New York Times wrote a piece on the recent artistic transition at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and how it's become an incredibly bitter one for many of the people involved. Victory Gardens is a Tony Award winning theatre in Chicago dedicated to new work, originally by an ensemble of twelve local playwrights. The New Artistic Director, Chay Yew ended the old playwrights ensemble, bringing in a new ensemble and changed the artistic bent of the theatre company, still keeping the focus on new plays. The Chicago reader has an in-depth follow-up article and a statement from Jeffrey Sweet on why members of the former playwrights ensemble are speaking out now.

I was leery of posting these articles in the wake of Mosaic Theatre's closing. The articles are sympathetic to the old guard at Victory Gardens Theater and support the view that an institution can't live past its founder, which is not the case for many artistic institutions. Some of the conversation on twitter points out that Yew inherited a financial deficit and had to make serious changes in order.

however, the problems at Victory Gardens provide outside context to the conversations I've been having ever since Florida Stage closed a year and a half ago. Where does mission and an artistic director's personality overlap? How does a mission live in an institution after an artistic transition? What I'm getting from these articles is that Yew and the board believed the mission of Victory Gardens was strictly new work, while those with ties to the institution before the change-over saw the mission as something much more specific.

South Florida is a community of young, founder driven theatre companies. We currently only have one major theatre that has gone through an artistic transition. Because what happened with Mosaic is so very unfortunate, it highlights the need to start having conversations about transitions and how to make them happen as smoothly as possible.

Holiday Plays

And because there are so many questions raised on artistic succession, I'm rounding out today's articles with some fluff on holiday plays.

TCG has a new article on alternatives to the annual A Christmas Carol productions that populate the county (along with countless Nutcrackers) this season.

And the LA Times writes on why theatres bank on Holiday plays. While we have more holiday plays this season than we have in seasons' past, holiday plays don't seen to be as ubiquitous here as they are elsewhere. Perhaps this is another way a new audience can be reached.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Theatre at Arts Garage: Exit, Pursued by Bear (2 reviews)

The Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of Lauren Gunderson's Exit, Pursued by Bear on December 7, 2012.
Thelma and Louise meets the Coen Brothers in this southern fried fingerlickin’ new comedy!  A contemporary Southern “revenge comedy” that disarms stereotypes of domestic abuse with wild humor, Bear is part I Love Lucy, part Jacobean tragedy, and part feminist power ballad. Set in the North Georgia Mountains, the ever-sweet Nan finally flips the story on her abusive husband, Kyle, taking back her life. With the help of her colorful friends, her idolization of Jimmy Carter, and one violent Shakespearean stage direction, this play ain’t over till the bears are in pursuit.
Louis Tyrell directed a cast that featured Niki Fridh, David Nail, David Hemphill, and Lindsey Forgey.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
This gleeful satire occasionally may seem like a too-extended Saturday Night Live skit even at 70 minutes, but playwright Lauren Gunderson has a delightfully wicked sense of humor matched by Louis Tyrrell’s direction and a madcap cast featuring Lindsey Forgey, Niki Fridh, David Hemphill and David Nail.
Tyrrell has directed this with a steady propulsive pace and he has helped the cast find Gunderson’s tone in which the daffy protagonists blissfully and determinedly pursue their dreams, no matter how wacky.
Nail and Hemphill, returning home for the holidays from pursuing careers out of state, are fine in their roles. But its Fridh (most recently an uppercrust matron in Stage Door’s Rumors) and Forgey (one of Slow Burn Theatre’s leading ladies) who shine like freshly-waxed linoleum, absolutely reveling in lines like “If I was trashier, I’d spit.”
... Bear makes good on Tyrrell’s promise for engaging, off-beat and thought-provoking theater that he brought last summer with Cabaret Verboten.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Artistic director Louis Tyrrell is launching his first full season at Delray Beach’s cozy Theatre at Arts Garage with Gunderson’s play. Though the production values are modest, the show is acted and directed in a way that will remind fans of the defunct Florida Stage of Tyrrell’s fine work there. For him, a playwright’s distinctive voice matters, and so does the notion that theater – even theater as raucous as Exit, Pursued by a Bear – should get an audience thinking.
Fridh is sympathetic as a Jimmy Carter-loving gal who really would rather not turn her husband into bear chow. Nail, a bear of a man himself, nails the squirrely charm of a guy whose sorry-baby spiel is a string of candy-coated lies. Forgey’s would-be thespian is a scantily clad hoot. And Hemphill, who enters wearing a cheerleader’s skirt before switching to way-more-boring pants, pretty much steals the show every time he opens his mouth.

Shakespeare it isn’t. But Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a rollicking example of the kind of theater that revs Tyrrell’s creative engine. And those roars? Sound-effect bears, for sure, but also laughs from the audience.
The Theatre at Arts Garage presents Exit, Pursued by Bear through December 30, 2012.

Plaza Theatre: Luv (2 reviews)

Plaza Theatre opened its production of Murray Schisgal's Luv on December 6, 2012.
A hysterical comedy by Murray Schisgal (author of Tootsie), Luv was a hit on Broadway and turned into an popular film. Harry Berlin is loveless and in despair while Milt Manville, Harry’s college roommate, is in love with a woman other than his wife Ellen. Milt hatches a plot to get Harry and Ellen to fall in love with each other so he can be released to marry his “soul mate,’ and everyone will live happily ever after. And so the comedy ensues.
Andy Rogow directed a cast that featured Avi Hoffman,  Patti Gardner, and Steven J. Carroll.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Back during the Cold War, a theatrical genre flourished called the American absurdist comedy. Perfected by Herb Gardner and Bruce Jay Friedman, it took hip unconventionality to an extreme degree of kookiness, one crucial millimeter short of being a living cartoon.  Perhaps the most popular entry was Murray Schisgal’s hilarious Luv...
...director Andy Rogow and his cast Avi Hoffman, Patti Gardner and Steven J. Carroll have done a   skilled job finding and recreating the right groove. Employing every shred of comic imagination they have and embracing the requisite manic daffiness with an unselfconscious abandon, this quartet does justice to this deceptively difficult and dated piece.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Luv plays like a strange amalgam of an early Neil Simon play, theater of the absurd and a Jules Feiffer cartoon come to life. Its rhythms would be familiar to a Catskills comedian, and because of that, director Andy Rogow is particularly lucky to have Avi Hoffman playing the part of manipulative Milt Manville. Creating any character requires memorization, rehearsal and performance choices, but taking on Mel is a comfortable fit for Hoffman, like putting on a made-to-order suit.
Rogow gives the actors lots of physical shtick, which Hoffman plays to the hilt as he’s decked out in designer Linda C. Shorrock’s ever-sillier costumes. Carroll’s main physical business involves running through Harry’s psychosomatic afflictions, but after the first few, they’re not all that funny. Gardner is a smart, sharp comedic foil for Hoffman, and with her black beatnik getup and beret, it’s she who brings the Feiffer vibe to Luv.
Luv plays at the Plaza Theatre through December 30, 2012.

Mondays are Dark

This Monday is particularly dark, as we learn that Mosaic Theater has closed following the last performance of The Birds.  We couldn't find any photos of the their space without a show in progress; and that's appropriate.  That space changed so radically with each new production that it can't be said to have had an existence without a show happening in it.  So we'll just have to make do with their logo.

Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon made the announcement on the company's blog, Tiles
As I have become older and as I am about to become a father, I wish to improve my quality of life.  My priorities have changed and I have changed.

The Board believes that it was a financially responsible decision to close the theater as I am “the heart and soul” of the organization and without me, it has no chance to move forward.
As someone who as eked out a living in professional theatre, I can sympathize; most artistic directors are overworked and underpaid; as one put it to me many years ago, "I get to pick which 80 hours of the week I work."  Life in professional theater is a life of sacrifice; you will always work longer hours and make less money than your non-artistic peers.  It's a life of rented housing and second-hand cars.

And that's if you're successful.

And this is important to keep in mind; Mosaic isn't closing because it ran short of funding or lost audience support: it closed because its artistic director wanted to spend time.

The Miami Herald reports that Simon didn't make the decision lightly, as he researched his situation:
"...over the past year, without anyone knowing why, I’ve talked to artistic directors about working 42 out of 52 weekends every year. It really came down to quality of life. Ninety-five percent said that after they had children, they wish they’d done things differently.”
Florida Theater Onstage is also covering the story, speaking with Deborah Sherman, who herself closed an artistically successful theater company she founded:
“He wants to have a life. You can’t have a life when you live in a theater 42 weeks out of 52,” she said. “It’s not a matter of not wanting to be creative. It’s a matter of quality of life. When you are responsible not only for the production, but responsible for everyone in that room getting a paycheck so they can eat, it’s a huge weight that puts a lot of strain on you.”
Even Palm Beach ArtsPaper weighed in:
Undoubtedly Simon’s letter will prompt much discussion among the local theater community and perhaps an effort to save Mosaic Theatre. But with Simon intent on making an exit and the board unwilling to consider finding a replacement for him, the future of the popular, much-praised company seems murky at best.
We do wish Richard and his wife, Dyani, the best of luck.  While the loss of Mosaic leaves a huge hole in the South Florida theatre scene, it would have left a larger hole in his family's daily life.

The L.A. Times reports that the financial scene for regional theaters is looking up.
Asked to describe how their organization was doing overall, half of the respondents said they were "holding steady," 40% said they felt they were "on the upswing," and 10% lamented that things were getting worse. Overall, that reflects a slightly improved mood from the 2011 survey, in which 36% said they were upbeat and 11% said they were downcast.
The Miami Herald reports that the From Scratch Festival is holding readings of new plays by local playwrights at the Deering Estate.  You can also read about it on Soul of Miami.  And BroadwayWorld reminds us that Palm Beach Dramaworks presents the first of this season's Master Playwright Series tonight

Speaking of Playwrights
Fin Kennedy mulls over the ins and outs of being a playwright-in-residence. (It's from April, but we just stumbled across it today, courtesy of Parabasis).

Speaking Of A Tough Business
The Taylor Trash has words of wisdom for aspiring theatre critics (courtesy of Parabasis).

Speaking of Advice
Broadway star Janet Dacal is back in town, appearing in The Last Five Years at Actors' Playhouse.  She has family in the area, and it allows her to visit while still working - because when your career is theater, you always have to work when you can.  But as BroadwayWorld reports, Dacal is also making time to hold a workshop in Little Haiti to share her experience with other South Floridians dreaming of a life on the stage.
This talk back/coaching session will give participants the unique opportunity to talk one-on-one with a Drama Desk Award-winning leading lady about her journey to Broadway. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions, hear backstage stories and learn some of the tricks of the trade. After the talk back session, participants are asked to come prepared with a headshot, resume and song of their choice, as Janet will coach them through their material.
It's an excellent opportunity to learn about show business from an honest-to-god Broadway star.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Palm Beach Dramaworks: A Delicate Balance (2 reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance on December 7, 2012
A well-to-do suburban family's life is upended when friends, seized by a nameless terror, come to live with them in this unsettling, darkly comic Pulitzer Prize-winning drama.

William Hayes directed a cast that included Maureen Anderman, Ann Bates, Dennis Creaghan, Rob Donohoe, Angie Radosh, and Laura Turnbull.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
What starts as a play about a troubled family of privilege, which keeps our attention simply because they are engagingly hyper-articulate, then ends as a shattering indictment of self-deception and hypocrisy in human interaction.

This laudable production is not for everyone, in part because Albee has written such a difficult and disturbing play, but also because Albee has created a never-flagging torrent of rich ideas passing by too quickly to savor. It’s like chugging a connoisseur-worthy wine. A smart audience member will just be grateful for the intermittent cups they can grab of the flood that rages past them.
There’s only praise due the deft direction of William Hayes and the top-flight cast led by superb performances from Maureen Anderman, Dennis Creaghan and Angie Radosh.
Anderman, a part-time West Palm Beach resident, brings every ounce of her Broadway experience and her personal connection with Albee (she starred in the original Seascape and The Lady From Dubuque.) Her skill at navigating Albee’s lush but cruelly Byzantine verbiage is amazing; she makes it seems almost effortless when it is, in fact, heavy lifting.
Creaghan’s perfectly-rendered Tobias is a reminder that when he returned here several years ago, he was an expert in playing these Brahmins, not the depraved or drunken creatures in American Buffalo, The Seafarer and A Behanding In Spokane. His Tobias is never a caricatured fuddy-duddy or snob, but someone for whom a smooth well-ordered existence is a virtue and a prize that has been earned. Creaghan skillfully slides Tobias along the play’s only character arc to agonized self-awareness, carrying us with him. It is likely Creaghan’s best work among season after season of terrific performances.
Radosh has long been one of our favorite actresses for her vitality, imagination and the unique reality that she invests in her characters... Here, she is blessed with some terrific drunken entrances including playing an accordion and some of Albee’s most cutting witticisms. Radosh finds and combines Claire’s self-disgust and intelligence as smoothly as the liquor she swills.
Bates, a New York actress, is fine as Julia, especially in her bewilderment that her parents don’t immediately throw over their friends for a blood relative’s needs. Donohoe, seen in Dramaworks’ The Pitmen Painters last season, is especially good in his penultimate scene the most inarticulate of the sextet (with Albee’s toughest syntax) struggles to hash out with Tobias what each should do.  Turnbull, simply one of the region’s best actresses, communicates Edna’s fear, but also makes convincing Edna’s seemingly presumptuous claims on the rights of a blood-related family member.

As usual, Hayes’ physical direction is nearly invisible, which allows us to focus on the words and ideas. A devotee of Albee (this is the sixth of his works at Dramaworks), Hayes has concentrated on working with the cast to successfully decipher what they can of the tortuous script. His pacing seems to be in perfect sync with Albee’s intent, which may be a bit more stately than some audiences want but is dead right for the piece.
The notoriously finicky and curmudgeonly Albee would be proud of this uncompromising edition.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Like Albee’s earlier Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was recommended but passed over for the 1963 Pulitzer, A Delicate Balance is a complex three-act drama that seems to fly by. That doesn’t mean that Hayes and an extraordinarily fine cast are pushing or pacing the play too quickly. Albee has crafted a timelessly riveting piece of theater, and the Dramaworks production remains engaging start to finish.
Anderman, an experienced Albee actress with a host of Broadway credits, makes Agnes a chic, smart purveyor of vitriol. Dressed by costume designer Erin Amico in classic clothing and pearls, Anderman’s Agnes is stinging, frustrated and manipulative while maintaining a mannered veneer.
Creaghan is low-key but great as her mate, his matter-of-fact delivery amplifying the horror in Tobias’ story about an unfriendly cat. And he’s superb as he delivers Tobias’ sputtering “aria” about why his friends cannot – yet must – stay. Radosh is the play’s boozy, truth-telling life force as Claire. She is the disruptive yin to her sister’s controlling yang, and when she’s offstage, she’s missed.

Bates delivers a Julia that supplies all of the character’s juvenile, hysterical petulance, making it tough to muster any sympathy for a pampered princess who’s a serial loser at love.
A Delicate Balance is a play grounded in a specific era, place and class. But as the new Dramaworks production so amply demonstrates, this masterwork by one of the country’s greatest playwrights continues to be emotionally gripping, of-the-moment drama.
A Delicate Balance plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 6, 2013.

Actors' Playhouse: The Last Five Years (2 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater opened its production of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years on December 7, 2012.
...a contemporary song-cycle musical that ingeniously chronicles the five year life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up... or from break-up to meeting, depending on how you look at it. The story, told in the exuberant and heart-rending songs of award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, explores the story of a five-year marriage between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hyatt, a struggling actress, from intense love to a final, painful separation. However, there’s an intriguing twist: Jamie lives the five years from beginning to end, while Cathy lives the five years backward, from end to beginning. Based on the author’s personal story, this musical from the composer of Songs From A New World, will be an artistic treat for South Florida audiences.
David Arisco directed a cast that featured Christopher Kent and Janet Dacal.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
One fascinating aspect of Facebook is how it reflects at any single moment the array of birth and death, triumph and disappointment, and especially joy and heartbreak of romance — all co-existing at the same time.  That yin and yang vibe imbues Jason Robert Brown’s intriguing and imaginative two-character musical tracking the life cycle of a romance and marriage, The Last Five Years, receiving a warm, entertaining production at Actors Playhouse.

But the reason to see it is the vibrant, bravura performance by former Miamian and current Broadway actress Janet Dacal.

God or luck bestows talent and there are scores of performers in South Florida blessed with considerable vocal gifts. What Dacal illustrates here is what happens when the performer labors to develop those gifts through study, practice and discipline. She has a clarion belt strong enough to push the back wall of the theater a few feet further out. But it’s the technique and polish, the phrasing and variety that she brings to that power that makes her an actress who sings as well as a singer who gets an acting gig.

Her colleague on stage is the engagingly earnest Christopher A. Kent, an Actors Playhouse veteran whose warm baritone wrings heartfelt emotion out of Brown’s difficult score.
It’s really unfair to dwell on Dacal and we’re not dissing the superb local actresses in musical theater, but South Florida audiences don’t often get to see this level of talent and skill, two different things, even in road shows. For someone who started out just wanting to be a singer, Dacal has come a long way in the decade since she was the replacement for the lead in Actors Playhouse’s Four Guys Named Jose…and Una Mujer Named Maria...
As usual, Arisco does a workmanlike job directing the piece and he sets the bittersweet tone that Brown wants while driving his actors to dig deep into the extremes of elation and desolation that the individual songs contain.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Director David Arisco and musical director Manny Schvartzman have that versatile cast, and they’re especially fortunate that Dacal, a Florida International University grad, decided to come home to work for the holidays.
The radiant Dacal has a glorious voice and the acting chops to make each of Cathy’s songs her own, from the quietly raw Still Hurting to the humor of Summer in Ohio and I Can Do Better Than That to the hope-filled Goodbye Until Tomorrow. Kent brings a slightly rough edge and some world-weariness to Jamie, blending well with Dacal on the couple’s let’s-get-married song The Next Ten Minutes and Jamie’s end-of-show farewell, I Could Never Rescue You. Kent is a likeable guy, Jamie not so much as he sings Nobody Needs to Know to a colleague-turned-lover.
Actors' Playhouse presents The Last Five Years at the Miracle Theater through December 30, 2012.