Sunday, August 31, 2014

What the?!?!

Yeah, we've gone back to our previous template.  Yeah, it was a slick layout, with all the customization that as far as we know no one ever used, but too much of our useful content was too hard to find.

So we're putting it back like it used to be, kinda-sorta.  If it's missing, you can let us know, but chances are we are already working on it.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Scene for August 29, 2014

Labor Day weekend!  This is a weekend meant for long days at the beach, late afternoon barbecues, and outrageous sales.
Oh, and excellent theater.  When you get tired of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes, duck into a nice, cool, theater and see a show.
Here’s what’s playing on the scene this holiday weekend:

you still haven't missed...
City Theatre and Island City Stage brings Shorts Gone Wild, a collection of 8 short plays with an LGBT spin, to Empire Stage through September 7.
Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Let My People Come, through September 6, 2014.
The Broward Stage Door Theatre offers Butterflies are Free through September 14.
Brice, Cantor and Jolson plays at The Plaza Theater Cabaret through September 14.
Broward Stage Door presents What’s New Pussycat, through September 18.

last chance to see...
Mad Cat Theatre Company’s production of Centralia winds up its run at the Miami Theater Center this Sunday, August 31, 2014.

The Arsht Cente’'s H2OMBRE, its latest immersive summer theatre experience, closes August 31. 
Evening Star Productions  production of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors plays through August 31.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mondays are Dark

theatre_festival_home…except in the summer; the South Florida Theatre League  brings you Summer Theatre Fest, a series of free play readings hosted at member theaters across South Florida.

Tonight is the last night of Summer Fest, and it’s appropriate that it’s another double-header.  At 7:30, you can catch Dear Mom by Nancy Holson and Jay Falzone at The Plaza Theatre.  Or you can catch Jeremiah Musgrove’s Scott and Charlie Steal Space at Alternative Space Theatre
Now here’s the rest of your Monday reading list:

OOPS – We Missed This Article Earlier

If we’d posted this South Florida Gay News story earlier, you’d have had more than this coming weekend to plan to see Let My People Come at Andrews Living Arts Studio.
Wilson still enthusiastically recalls the origins of the show: Nudity was still novel on Broadway with the success of “Hair” and “Oh, Calcutta!” and one of the producers called Wilson and dared him to write his most outrageous song about sex in just 30 minutes.
“I had a wonderful affair with a woman he had introduced me to a year earlier and thought about a situation that happened with this woman,” Wilson said. “It was such an enlightening and enriching experience, I wrote it down and ran to his apartment with the tape recorder.”
You’ll have to read the article to find out the title of said song.  But honestly, your first guess is probably pretty close.

South Florida Represented

First up, a pair of stories that show that South Florida is a source of the highest caliber talent:
Timeline Theatre’s blog features an interview between artistic director PJ Powers, and actor Alex Weisman, a South Florida actor too few of you have had a chance to see.  He went to Chicago to study, and has been working the Chicago scene with great success, garnering himself a prestigious Jeff Award.  He is currently in rehearsals for My Name is Asher Lev at the TimeLine Theatre.
The New York Times takes another look at the Broadway production of Pippin, now that it’s been up and running for a year. 
…praise the gods of Broadway, Rachel Bay Jones’s tenderly frolicsome, fairy tale performance as Catherine has only deepened with time. Her romantic chemistry with Mr. Massey is lovely.
You might have seen Rachel at Actors’ Playhouse as Miss Pennywise in Urinetown, or doing her star turn in the title role in Evita.

Hanging with the Band

Florida Theater On Stage spent a day with the pit orchestra for Evita while the national tour played the Arsht Center.
…Laser focused, these 18 individuals are as well-oiled a musical machine as anyone can imagine. It’s as if the travelling circus hired local trapeze aerialists that morning to work without a net and without years of practicing together.
This hard-won achievement began more than 12 hours earlier. Or two weeks if you look at it another way. Or 40 years ago if you look at it another.
It’s great “day in the life” pit that gives us a unique perspective of This Business We Call Show.

First Step Towards the White Way

The Drama Queen reports that the biographical musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan is holding auditions.
The casting search -- dubbed Reach Gloria (#ReachGloria) -- has three facets:  online, a Sept. 9 open casting at New York's Pearl Studios, and another open casting Sept. 21 at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. 
Audition videos can be submitted via, which also has more details and a submission link.

Speaking of New Plays

The Palm Beach Daily News reports that Palm Beach Dramaworks is adding new play development to its programming.
A corps of 25 to 30 resident artists will participate at every stage and be preferred for casting if the plays end up as full productions. “We have a group of local actors who have been involved with us for years and have helped build the organization,” Hayes said. “Part of this is about giving them a place they can call home.”
We’re for that.

Meanwhile, at the Fringe Festival

This isn’t an update about South Floridians at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  It’s a lament from The Guardian about a problem all of us are facing; the loss of theatre critics from our major dailies.
When I started coming to the fringe in the early 80s, newspapers would send entire teams of critics. It was the Independent that really changed the face of Edinburgh fringe coverage by bringing hordes of fresh-faced young writers – including myself, Tom Morris, Ian Shuttleworth, Sarah Hemming, Alex Renton and more – to the festival, and covering it with a military precision that made the Scotsman really up its game. After that, other broadsheets followed suit.
But over recent years, broadsheet coverage of the fringe has started to shrink. Just as the costs of performing at the festival seem like too much risk for too little return for many companies, so the costs for newspapers of bringing teams to cover the fringe have also spiralled.
As a blogger, The Scene is absolutely in a position to state categorically that blogs and Twitter are not adequate replacements for a proper theatre critic and a daily newspaper that reports on the theatre scene.  Some of us do give up reading a newspaper when it stops covering our area of interest.  And I’m talking to you, Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel.

Final Exit…

Florida Theater On Stage  went to Boca Raton’s Evening Star Productions to do a story about a company that worked through the death of their director, Laura Ruchala:
We didn’t intend to review the show; we went to do a story about how the company soldiered on after Ruchala’s passing. But producer Rosalie Grant said Ruchala would have wanted the work treated for what it is – a professional production.
This production of The Comedy of Errors appears to have been rooted in tragedy:
The script was initially adapted by Ruchala’s friend Kevin Crawford, a co-founder of the outdoor Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival who died in December. She and Crawford’s brother, Todd, refined it further as a kind of tribute.
But for all the death, the play is the kind of celebration any of us would want as a legacy:
Ruchala’s playful play-filled vision unabashedly embraces every stripe of daft and deft comedy from Will’s sex-drenched word play to Three Stooges slapstick.
The fledgling Evening Star troupe – a professional company that puts young adult actors alongside seasoned pros – has thrown themselves unreservedly into this madness along with the final polish in the last week or so by director Jerry Jensen.
But the star is truly Ruchala who lavished a hundred comedy bits and an imaginative vaudevillian sensibility that can be by turns subtle or silly. The bare-bones low-budget production ends with the cast delivering a joyful if ragged rendition of Ruchala’s favorite song, Pharrell Williams’ irresistibly infectious “Happy,” a perfect embodiment of this show.

Rest in peace, Laura.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Scene for August 22, 2014

So the kids are back in school, all the camps have been packed away until next year.  And it’ll be a month or so before we start seeing children’s programming, have to give the kiddies a chance to settle into school.
And we’re down to the end of Summer Theatre Fest!

Monday will bring the final two readings in the South Florida Theatre League Summer Fest Reading Series.  Alternative Theatre Space will be staging Fuck The Universe: Scott and Charlie Steal Space, while The Plaza Theatre will be reading Dear Mom.  By all accounts, this year’s summer fest has been well-attended.  We’ll be at the Plaza Theater on Monday.
Here's what’s playing on the scene this weekend:

Evening Star Productions opens its production of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, through August 31
The Real Queen of Hearts Ain’t Even Pretty plays this weekend at Actors’ Rep.
Broward Stage Door opens What’s New Pussycat, through September 18.

you still haven't missed...
City Theatre and Island City Stage brings Shorts Gone Wild, a collection of 8 short plays with an LGBT spin, to Empire Stage through September 7.
Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Let My People Come, through September 6, 2014.
The Broward Stage Door Theatre offers Butterflies are Free through September 14.
Brice, Cantor and Jolson plays at The Plaza Theater Cabaret through September 14.
Mad Cat Theatre Company’s production of Centralia plays at the Miami Theater Center through August 31, 2014.

The Arsht Center presents H2OMBRE, its latest immersive summer theatre experience, through August 31. 

last chance to see...
Thinking Cap Theatre Company’s production of Church closes August 24, 2014.  

for kids...
Sol Children’s Theatre presents Into The Woods, through August 24.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mad Cat Theatre Company: Centralia (4 reviews)

CentraliaMad Cat Theatre Company opened its production of Centralia at the Miami Theater Center on August 14, 2014.

In the 1960’s an underground coal fire was sparked by an accident.  20 years later the fire was still burning and the inhabitants of Centralia were forced to relocate. 3 people refused to leave.  Inspired by this true story, Centralia sees the 3 remaining inhabitants travel the globe to tell the world their story.  Using a mixture of comedy, cabaret, dance and music, this brave new play explores the relationships that can only be formed through this unique disaster.

Paul Tei directed a cast that included Troy Davidson, Theo Reyna, and Bonnie Sherman.  Music by Steph Taylor.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

…when Mad Cat finds the right groove with the right piece as it has here, even hidebound traditionalists need to recalibrate their definitions and expectations of “theater.”

The script’s challenge and Mad Cat’s achievement is to find the precise tone that acknowledges the naiveté of these yokels and yet never cruelly taunts them for it – in fact, finding something admirable about their persistence. It harbors compassion for myopic people trying to ignore that their way of life has eroded away.

That success results from the performances that Tei has elicited from his note-perfect performers, Troy Davidson, Theo Reyna and Bonnie Sherman, who are highly skilled at seeming amateurish. The crucial key is how the trio exude an unabashed earnestness that is just too pure to ridicule no matter how ridiculous their ideas.

Davidson… immerses himself in Alistair who doggedly keeps the general store open. He keeps a perfectly reasonable tone during a mirthful monologue describing the Byzantine series of barter trades that passes for economic transactions in the town – starting with an apple, passing through old cars and ending up with a basketball trading card.

Reyna… exudes a sad sack dorkiness and a mild discomfort living in his own fleshy body, even as Norman throws himself into the risible dance routines with a total commitment.

Sherman, a New World School grad returned from several years in New York, is especially notable creating Jennyfer, a lovely young woman with her hair all in ringlets whose face glows with delight as she finds a way to incorporate her untapped talents into the show…

The considerable amount of music is provided live by Steph Taylor on a variety of guitars, drums and keyboards..

Mad Cat’s creative team once again makes a virtue out of a modest budget since the Centralians also would have little money for production values. Karelle Levy has garbed the cast in exactly the kind of well-worn motley that the characters would toss together from their closets. Matt Corey provided the ominous soundscape and Melissa Santiago Keenen delivered a surprisingly varied array of lighting configurations. Tei designed the intentionally cheesy recreation of the stricken town complete with a vent pipe belching smoke and also provided the off-beat props (along with the help of his parents Anne and Pio.)

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Theatrically, South Florida is a place where tried-and-true shows rule, from time-tested American classics to recent buzzed-about plays from New York. The region’s playwrights, happily, have upped our appetite for original fare. But work that’s more experimental or unusual in form is much harder to find.

Unless you go to a Mad Cat show.

Mad Cat has done the occasional play by Neil LaBute, Christopher Durang, Samuel Beckett and other well-known playwrights, but far more frequently Tei has opted for creating original work embracing multimedia elements and a bold aesthetic.

Centralia, the new Mad Cat show at Miami Theater Center’s SandBox, wasn’t created by the company, but its style and spirit make it an ideal Mad Cat show.

The cast — Troy Davidson as Alistair, Theo Reyna as Norman, Bonnie Sherman as Jennyfer and versatile musician-composer Steph Taylor — isn’t supposed to come off as a polished theatrical troupe. These are supposed to be stubborn, down-to-earth Pennsylvanians telling their stories with an amateur’s charm and passion. Under Tei’s direction, Mad Cat’s quartet of fine pros finds subtle ways to convey that let’s-put-on-a-show spirit while skillfully bringing to life each of Centralia’s disparate segments.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

To say Mad Cat Theatre’s founder Paul Tei has eclectic tastes is like saying there’s water in the Atlantic. It’s too bloody obvious. But it’s just as well, for Mad Cat’s production of Centralia written by the Scottish/Norwegian/Swiss/Ecuadorian and British Superbolt Theatre features everything theatrical but the kitchen s... no, wait, there’s maybe one of those, too.

Centralia is a clever piece, fast, funny, imaginative... Troy Davidson as Alistair is always at ease, endearing as the town’s last store keeper, and handyman Norman (Theo Rayna) playing the rankest of amateur actors, commits every possible stage sin, including bouncing off the furniture. Bonnie Sherman, returning to Miami after a seven year absence in NYC, plays the multi-charactered Jennyfer, tenderly serious one moment, wonderfully funny the next, flinging herself around the stage like a demented doll in leotard and tights.

Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Gay News:

The doggedness of a population determined to hold onto their land, no matter what, is illustrated beautifully---and hilariously---in Centralia, the current production from Mad Cat Theatre… an inventive loopy, wildly funny hour of entertainment that includes storytelling, interpretive dance and tales acted out with action figures.

But all that wackiness is grounded with real heart, and Davidson, Reyna and Sherman do a terrific job of infusing each moment of Centralia with the emotion of three people who are brought together through shared disaster and their devotion to their hometown.

…director Paul Tei has found an apt theatre piece for his artistic vision. Tei’s “Centralia” is an immersive experience that begins even before the cast takes the stage. His wink-to-the-audience set is like a theme park ride, setting the scene for a story so bizarre it has to be true.

Mad Cat Theatre Company’s production of Centralia plays at the Miami Theater Center through August 31, 2014.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Scene for August 15, 2014

Time was that summer lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  But in South Florida, summer vacation is over for students, and the kids are back in school.  Those of us who have no children still have a couple of weeks of summer left to travel before the fall arrives and we all have to get back to looking busy.  Or, you know, actually being busy.
But we still have a couple of weeks of Summer Theatre Fest left!

Monday will bring the latest entry in the Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest Reading Series, and it’s another double-header!  In Broward, a staged reading of Susan Westfall’s Two Weekends and a Day, staged by City Theatre at Empire Stage.  In Miami-Dade, Paul Tei’s Instant Classic is is staged by Mad Cat Theatre at the Miami Theatre Center.
Here's what’s playing on the scene this weekend:

One night only, it’s Judge Jackie Justice at the Theatre at Arts Garage Friday, August 15, 2014.  It’s a staged reading of a new musical.
Mad Cat Theatre Company opens its production of Centralia at the Miami Theatre Center, through August 31, 2014.
Brice, Cantor and Jolson opens this weekend at The Plaza Theater Cabaret. Through September 14.

you still haven't missed...
City Theatre and Island City Stage brings Shorts Gone Wild, a collection of 8 short plays with an LGBT spin, to Empire Stage through September 7.
Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Let My People Come, through September 6, 2014.

Thinking Cap Theatre Company presents its production Church through August 24, 2014.  
The Broward Stage Door Theatre offers Butterflies are Free through September 14.
The Arsht Center is opening H2OMBRE, its latest immersive summer theatre experience, through August 31. 

last chance to see...

Actors’ Playhouse production of Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues) winds up on August 17, 2014. 
GableStage  critically acclaimed production of  Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale winds up its run on August 17.    
Oy Vey It’s Broadway winds up its run at The Plaza Theater Cabaret on Monday, August 18.

community and conservatory...
The Main Street Players offers Becky's New Car through August 17.
The Area Stage Conservatory offers Sweeny Todd Fridays and Saturdays August 1 through 15.
Saturday night it’s a command performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible by the Youth Artists’ Chair program at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

for kids...
Sol Children’s Theatre presents Into The Woods, through August 24.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

City Theatre/Island City Stage: Shorts Gone Wild 2 (reviews)

SGW2rc1The City Theatre and Island City Stage co-production of Shorts Gone Wild 2 opened at Empire Stage on August 7, 2014.

Take 6 actors, 8 playwrights, 4 directors and a design team and whip them up until they peak into 8 short, provocative, funny and thoroughly entertaining plays with a LGBT bent.  It is perfect summer fun that features brand new, never performed plays from 5 local, professional playwrights up close and in your face in South Florida’s hottest intimate theatrical space.

A directorial stable that included Michael Leeds, Margaret M. Ledford, Teddy Harrell, Gail S. Garrisan and Andy Rogow , directed a cast that featured Gladys Ramirez, Craig Moody, Matthew Stabile, Renée Elizabeth Turner, Larry Buzzeo and Niki Fridh.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

This is the second annual collaboration of City Theatre, which produces the annual Summer Shorts in Miami, and Island City Stage, the LGBT-centric company in Fort Lauderdale. As we’ve ranted before, writing short plays is a surprisingly difficult and underrated task; there are usually one or more entries in any play festival around the country that don’t measure up.

This edition strikes us as more consistent than last year’s inaugural effort, although there often seems to be less meat there than you hunger for. But the uniformity of quality is an asset because, once again, the evening opens up with a particular piece, but the order of the rest of the seven playlets is chosen by picking numbers out of a hat…

…a repertory group of six actors with unflagging energy and charm throw themselves in a brace of eight plays written by local and out-of-town playwrights and helmed by local directors.

…one favorite is local playwright Christopher Demos-Brown’s I Alone, a dramatic playlet directed by Island City’s managing artistic director Andy Rogow.

If you don’t look at the list of characters in the program, it may take a couple of minutes for the premise to sink in. But when it does, it’s a rewarding set up and follow-through… Frank has had a sex change operation and was Ben’s lover in school. The alter egos articulate the painful emotions that the taciturn men cannot utter: Frank’s feeling rejected for Ben’s current snub, Ben’s bafflement at Frank’s choice and extreme embarrassment at their previous relationship. This is not played for laughs; instead their paralysis stands in for the discomfort that much of society has in coming to terms with transgendered people, even as it accepts homosexuality.

Local playwright and actor Michael McKeever penned the funniest piece of the night, Lion in a Bear Bar, directed by Michael Leeds and featuring a hilarious performance by Larry Buzzeo as the ultimate Friend of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion. The premise has the Lion – complete with shaggy mane, tail and Bert Lahr persona – squabbling with his lover Matt Stabile in a gay bar.

Closing the opening night slate was The Last Time I Saw Betty Bathhouse, by local writer and arts supporter Tony Finstrom and directed by Garrisan… The play isn’t as insightful as the previous entries, but it does exude a warm glow of nostalgia as it catalogues familiar types and an out-there comfort level that marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

A co-production of Miami-based City Theatre and Fort Lauderdale’s Island City Stage, Shorts Gone Wild 2 brings eight stylistically diverse short plays to life, thanks to five savvy directors (Michael Leeds, Margaret M. Ledford, Teddy Harrell, Gail S. Garrisan and Andy Rogow) and six versatile actors (Craig Moody, Larry Buzzeo, Matt Stabile, Gladys Ramirez, Niki Fridh and Renée Elizabeth Turner).

…the varied plays are fun, hilarious, touching, unsettling, sweet. The evening is also a bit interactive as different audience members pick numbers out of a hat to decide the running order. Some plays are stronger than others, but there’s not a whimpering dog in the bunch.

In part because of the play that always comes first, in part because of the production’s deliberately simple quick-change design, Shorts Gone Wild 2 has a playful let’s-put-on-a-show vibe.

Leeds puts on his playwright’s hat to get the party started with The Emperor Is Naked, a meta theater piece about the Shorts cast getting ready to start the evening. Emperor accomplishes two things: It sets up a running gag about real-life spouses Stabile and Fridh having a jealous tiff, and it demonstrates how many ways the sculpted, stark-naked Moody can creatively cover up his privates without flashing the audience. Many, as it turns out.

Prolific South Florida playwright Michael McKeever contributes two of the strongest pieces, each a short-form testament to his versatility. Lion in a Bear Bar  (and)... Sarah Stein Sends a Selfie begins with an oh-my-God moment as a hungover bride-to-be (Fridh) discovers she sent an XXX-rated selfie to her maid of honor’s mom

The plays in Shorts Gone Wild 2 explore sexual orientation and experimentation, where life choices lead, the ache of betrayal and more, through a combination of humor and truth. That’s a tall order for short plays, but thanks to an engaging cast, smart directors and skilled playwrights, Shorts Gone Wild 2 measures up.

JW Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:

Here’s a recipe for a tasty night of theater: Take seven talented local playwrights, mix them in with a quirky cast of six actors, season with some LGBT themes and allow five award-winning directors to perfectly cook the concoction.  Island City Stage and City Theatre are once again serving up Shorts Gone Wild, a short play festival at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, and the results are simply delicious.

…plays include Fielding Edlow’s A Bump Between Friends (Gail S. Garrison, director), starring Renee Elizabeth Turner as a narcissistic woman who reacts jealously when Fridh announces she is pregnant after a one-night stand with the child of Turner’s old boyfriend. The play is very funny, but like a soufflé that crashes at the last minute, lacking a solid punch line.

Game On, by Gary Garrison (Andy Rogow, director) involves a heart-to-heart examination of the qualities that define and attract gay men after a first date gone bad. Buzzeo portrays a flamboyant gay man while Stabile is seeking someone on Grindr who is a little more “straight acting.” The play has lots of heart, but substitute AOL or Manhunt for Grindr and we’ve heard this story many times before.

Unfortunately, Christopher Demos-Brown’s I Alone (Andy Rogow, director) is the only play that just doesn’t work. Demos-Brown’s writing is smart and heartfelt, a rich soufflé... It takes several minutes—a lifetime for a short play—for the audience to realize I Alone is written as dialogues between both the current friends and their “former” selves. It would be a worthwhile effort to explore some other staging ideas to save what became a collapsed soufflé.

…credit goes to Peter A. Lovello and Michael McClain for their clever color-coded costumes and props, another throwback to last year’s production, but a critical ingredient in this banquet, nonetheless.

The City Theatre and Island City Stage co-production of Shorts Gone Wild 2 plays at Empire Stage through September 7, 2014.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thinking Cap Theatre Company: Church (4 Reviews)

churchThinking Cap Theatre Company opened its production of Young Jean Lee’s Church in a tent in the parking lot the still-under-conversion Vanguard Sanctuary for the Arts on August 8, 2014.

Let Thinking Cap convert you into a theatre lover with the Florida premiere of Church by Young Jean Lee. 

In the true spirit of experimentation, this will be a site-specific performance fashioned like a "tent revival" and held outside under the stars. Don't miss this truly unique production!
In Church, acclaimed playwright Lee presents a dramatic rendering of an exuberant spiritual service that will appeal to religious and non-religious individuals alike. A charismatic preacher and three female reverends will take you on a journey that is by turns funny, musical, jarring, and ultimately moving. Never content with simple parody, Lee's ambitious aim with Church is to give her audience an authentic experience of theatrical faith.

Nicole Stodard directed a cast that included Vanessa Elise, Carey Brianna Hart, Ann Marie Olson, Scott Douglas Wilson and Sabrina Gore.  Musical direction by Bill J. Adams.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

Thinking Cap Theatre’s regional premiere of Young Jean Lee’s play Church may not be everyone’s cup of sacramental wine, but bring an open mind and savor a thought-provoking, exuberant even entertaining evening.

Lee, producing artistic director Nicole Stodard and musical director Bill J. Adams have required their cast and musicians to invest completely in these evangelists who devoutly believe and want to share the joy they have found because of pure altruism. The cast has not let them down. Not a single performer, no matter their personal beliefs, can be caught winking for a milli-second. They give themselves to their characters with the same kind of abandon that their characters have exhibited in giving their lives to God.

No one exemplifies that so much as Scott Douglas Wilson as Preacher Jose, the genial emcee and spinner of spellbinding modern parables.

The tone carefully cultivated among the cast by Stodard and Lee is not one of smug paternalistic knowledge, but of passion. That passion is especially evident in the testimony of one of the beaming faithful played by Ann Marie Olson who relates her journey through a hellish past with her round eyes blazing. Similarly, Vanessa Elise delivers a brief but chilling tale that spills out of her mouth in a whitewater torrent of words that summon up insane surrealistic drug-induced visions. Carey Brianna Hart’s evangelist may be more conventional but no less convincing.

Stodard carefully builds the show as any director would from a laid-back get-together to an occasionally scorching crescendo.

Music is a key component. A 15-minute pre-show may be the most rousing kick-butt warm-up of any production this season including familiar tunes given an injection of rock sensibility such as “This Little Light of Mine” and a punkish vibe on “Over The Rainbow.” The entire cast has fine voices but “choir director” Sabrina Lynn Gore and Olson set the ad hoc congregation on its heels with their power and skill.

No one can blame you for not being intrigued by the description of the show. But if you dress in loose clothes, bring a hanky to wipe your brow and use the hand fan provided with your ticket to cool off, you will likely be glad you took a chance.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Because Thinking Cap’s new home at The Vanguard, a former church on Fort Lauderdale’s Andrews Avenue, is still being renovated, the show unfolds in the style of a revival meeting under a tent-like canopy in the parking lot. The experience feels so authentic that the neighbors could be forgiven for thinking there’s worship going on in the ’hood.

But Church is indeed a play, one with lots of music and a little dance.

As Thinking Cap’s name suggests, artistic director Nicole Stodard is drawn to material that provokes thought, challenges assumptions and stirs discussion. Church does each of those things, doubtless inspiring some in the audience as it makes others uncomfortable.

The lead evangelist, Reverend José (Scott Douglas Wilson), is a hellfire-and-brimstone type... Often using the cadences of a sermon, Wilson soothes, confronts and berates his listeners in the play’s most powerful performance

Carey Brianna Hart is the nurturing but stressed-out manager who keeps the evangelical show on the road. Vanessa Elise invites prayer requests, then later delivers a mystifying story so fast that she seems to be speaking in tongues. Ann Marie Olson, who sings a glorious Amazing Grace at the top of the show, is the sinner-turned-believer, and Lee makes the details of her dark past truly creepy.

Fair warning to the heat-phobic: While staging this particular play in the Vanguard parking lot makes pragmatic and artistic sense, South Florida in August can be a little too evocative of Satan’s terrain. Cleverly, Thinking Cap’s program is printed on the back of a hand-held fan, but it provides about as much relief as a single ice cube in a steam room.

  Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

Church is normally performed in a large tent on the grounds of Thinking Cap’s new home, but moves to the Muse Center for the Arts when thunderstorms threaten. And last night the lightning was flashing so indoors we went. The crew toted the chairs and equipment a couple of blocks down the street, set everything up in just a few minutes and the show started almost right on time. Strong ceiling lights, (no optic ballet here). An inkling of the enthusiasm to come.

Written by the brilliantly imaginative Young Jean Lee, Church is a down home revival meeting. Revival of the spirit, that is. And as performed by Thinking Cap’s cast it is completely enthralling pure theatre.  Director Nicole Stodard’s notes include: “...No fourth wall? Completely immersive? Colossal subject matter? Yes!...”

Each of the four Reverends delivered stories of sin and redemption. All had hold of Young Jean Lee’s words and wouldn’t let go, living every tale. Scott Douglas Wilson as the Reverend Jose had the lead. In every way. Three sermons/tales/testimonials, call them what you will, were mesmerizing. His love of the material inspiring.

I had made a note: “This isn’t a play.” But of course it is, in the very best sense.

John Thomason reviewed for The Broward Palm Beach New Times:

Young Jean Lee, a hotshot South Korean playwright praised for her experimental approach to stagecraft, may be one of these postmodern ironists, or maybe she isn't. But her play Church, which premiered in New York in 2007, is certainly one of the most original approaches to the subject of a tent revival — and to theater itself — as you're likely to see. Outside its new home at the Vanguard, Fort Lauderdale's Thinking Cap Theatre has produced a perfectly calibrated Church that is as much a site-specific performance-art installation as it is an enjoyable retrograde variety show.

…you'll hear songs of praise, recitations of Bible verses, requests for healing prayers, and stories of personal transformation triggered by an acceptance of the Almighty, enacted with earnest immersion and a refreshing lack of condescension by three talented "reverends": Ann Marie Olson, Vanessa Elise, and Carey Brianna Hart, all performing under their own names.

But it's the charismatic preacher who breathes most of the oxygen into this collapsible chapel. For this, we have Scott Douglas Wilson, acting under the nom de plume Reverend Jose, to thank... Acting with his entire body and almost winking to us without ever succumbing to the temptation, Wilson delivers another outstanding performance. Peppering his parables with pregnant pauses of Barnumesque proportions, he approaches the character like a good adman, telling us why we're worthless until we buy his product.

Evangelicals may be bothered by the approach of Lee and this production's faithful director, Nicole Stodard, for the way they mock the minister's pomposity… But …it's difficult to be offended by Church… because the play is too scattershot to deliver a consistent message. Lee is not a polemicist so much as a mashup artist. Her tent revival is both a sly parody and a loving homage…

Perhaps Lee just loves the pageantry, the drama, and, yes, the theater of old-time religion. And in translating this vintage milieu with loving veracity, Stodard has given us a new kind of theater. Can I get an amen?


Thinking Cap Theatre Company presents its production Church through August 24, 2014.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Scene for August 8, 2014

Heat.  Humidity. Rain.  Rinse & repeat.  Thus do the days of August pass in a South Florida rainy season.


In days of yore, South Florida’s theatre scene would have rolled up the sidewalk by now; most actors and stagehands would be in the midst of summer stock productions across the middle of America. 


But that was then. 

Monday will bring the latest entry in the Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest Reading Series, a staged reading of Nancy Cheser’s new musical Broken English at Area Stage Company.  

Here's what’s playing on the scene this weekend:



City Theatre and Island City Stage brings Shorts Gone Wild, a collection of 8 short plays with an LGBT spin, to Empire Stage through September 7.

Andrews Living Arts Studio presents Let My People Come, through September 6, 2014.


Mother, Me and the Monsters is coming and going; August 8 only at the Theatre at Arts Garage.


Oy Vey It’s Broadway opens this weekend at The Plaza Theater Cabaret. Through August 18.

 Thinking Cap Theatre Company presents its production Church through August 24, 2014.

you still haven't missed...

The Broward Stage Door Theatre offers Butterflies are Free through September 14.

Actors’ Playhouse opens Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues) through August 17, 2014.  As the title suggests, this is the long-awaited sequel to that blockbuster hit Midlife: The Crisis Musical.
GableStage opens its production of  Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, which runs through August 17.  
The Arsht Center is opening H2OMBRE, its latest immersive summer theatre experience, through August 31. 

community and conservatory...

The Main Street Players offers Becky's New Car through August 17.
The Area Stage Conservatory offers Sweeny Todd Fridays and Saturdays August 1 through 15.

for kids...
Sol Children’s Theatre presents Into The Woods, through August 24.

Stage Door Theatre: Butterflies are Free (4 reviews)

BSD Butterflies - On Stage copyThe Broward Stage Door Theater opened its production of Butterflies are Free on August 1, 2014.
All Don Baker wants is a place of his own away from his over-protective mother. Don's been blind since birth, but that doesn't stop him from setting up in a New York apartment and making the acquaintance of his off-the-wall, liberated, actress neighbor Jill. Don learns the kind of things from Jill that his mother would never have taught him! And Jill learns from Don what growing up and being free is really all about.
Michael Leeds directs a cast that included Britt Michael Gordon, Gina Marie Jamieson, Brook Packard, and Andy Quiroga. 
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
…while Stage Door’s edition under director Michael Leeds is a pleasant enough afternoon’s diversion of humor and emotion, it’s never terribly compelling and the whole thing could use more pizzazz to make it feel satisfying.
The problem is it requires some extraordinary actors to energize the low-key proceedings, especially in the conflict-free first act. These folks are adequate but they don’t have that alchemical topspin that God gifts some people with and this show relies upon.
Gordon is suitably amiable, but Don is written to be laid-back and controlled. So that leaves Jill to be the engine for the first act. Jamieson is likable enough, but not distinctive enough. This was the role on stage that made people notice then wild child Blythe Danner and in the 1972 film version, Jill was kookiness incarnate, Goldie Hawn. Without that magic to enchant, Leeds moves the first act steadily but without much electricity.
Mrs. Baker is an equally tough problem. Packard is good at playing the uptight matron with the frozen face of polite geniality…the role was tailored to… archetypal acerbic judgmental motherhood. But underneath the off-putting behavior, you sensed her genuine concern for her son…. clearly a solid actress,(Packard) gets all of that in pieces, but not at the same time. Something doesn’t quite gel. She’s not intimidating enough to be a real threat to Don’s independence even though we’re supposed to feel the threat under her inspired brittle barbs.
One plus is that Leeds never lets the play remain static visually. People are usually in motion and Don even swings around the framework of his bed, which is about eight feet off the ground on stilts.
Andy Quiroga plays the small part of a pretentious off-off-Broadway director who has auditioned Jill for a part and who arrives at the loft to take her home with him. Quiroga is note perfect, setting up Packard’s verbal spikes like a professional volley ball player. We have said it repeatedly: Quiroga has to pay the family bills as a college educator but he’s one of a half-dozen grossly underutilized actors in the region.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
…as Stage Door Theatre’s new production of Butterflies Are Free so engagingly demonstrates, vintage theater isn’t the same thing as dated theater. Butterflies isn’t Death of a Salesman or The Glass Menagerie, but it is truthful and resonant, and its combination of interpersonal drama and edgy humor makes for an absorbing, entertaining couple of hours.
Stage Door’s production works so well for a couple of reasons. The company hired director Michael Leeds and set designer Michael McClain, both Carbonell Award winners for the The Timekeepers at Island City Stage last season, to work their magic. A freelancer and onetime Tony Award nominee who has directed at Stage Door many times, Leeds works with his well-cast actors to shape richly colored performances, working the beats of a scene like a masterful conductor.
Gordon charms the audience from the opening moments of the play, before Don ever utters a word, and his charismatic appeal just keeps deepening... The actor impressively conveys Don’s romantic vulnerability and the fears he works so hard to hide.
Packard’s Mrs. Baker is, at first, a fierce and condescending mama bear. Her comments to Jill are delivered with a tight smile and inflections that border on the lethal. Yet Packard, too, lets us see the fears and love beneath the in-control façade.
Jill is often played as an airhead, and though Jamieson makes us laugh with the character’s penchant for misquoting, she captures the damaged and fearful young woman behind the bravado. As director Ralph Austin, Jill’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, the always-fine Andy Quiroga is all cringe-inducing, possessive swagger.
Thanks to the astute, skillful Leeds, Stage Door’s Butterflies Are Free floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. And it also, most significantly, touches the heart.
 Dale King wrote for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
The comedy Butterflies are Free... is not a musical. But music is key to the flow of the action and the meaning of the characters’ lives, particularly Don Baker (Britt Michael Gordon), the central figure in this quirky, slightly dated, but certainly entertaining and worthwhile production.
Broadway-steeped director Michael Leeds and Broward Stage artistic director Derelle Bunn assembled a talented cast of four local and New York actors to inhabit Gershe’s characters... the cast — Gordon, Tanner, Mrs. Baker (Brook Packard) and Ralph Austin (Andy Quiroga) — deliver their lines with just the right timing.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
As soon as you see the set for Butterflies are Free, you just know it must be the 1960s.  Never mind the peace sign painted on the wall, the loft apartment by set designer Michael McClain stretches all the way across the stage and has a skylight. You’d have to go back about 45 years to find that kind of affordable floor space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Half the time the actors hold the stage and carry the sauterne play effortlessly for two hours, including a 15-minute intermission. The other half feels somewhat under-powered. That may be due to the languorous feel that director Michael Leeds imbues in the production. This is an illusion since there is plenty going on here, a veritable 3D of emotions, particularly in the kick-ass last act.
Butterflies are Free plays at Broward Stage Door Theater through September 14, 2014.

GableStage: The Whale (reviews)

GableStage whale_adGableStage opened its production of Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale on July 19, 2014…

A multiple Award-Winning Off-Broadway triumph about a six-hundred-pound reclusive gay man who is dying of congestive heart failure. Teaching English composition online from his disheveled apartment, he's desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter. He reaches out to her only to find a viciously sharp-tongued and wildly unhappy teen. Big-hearted and fiercely funny, it is the story of a man's last chance at redemption and of finding beauty in the most unexpected places.

Joseph Adler directed a cast that included Gregg Weiner, Deborah Sherman, Amy Miller Brennan, Karl Skylar Urban, and Arielle Hoffman.


Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:

Like the title leviathan rising from the deep, GableStage’s production of The Whale begins with few ripples disturbing the placid surface. It’s even a bit frustrating waiting for the conflict to assert itself. But the vague outline of a behemoth emerges from the muck and it grows in emotional heft until it breaches the surface with shattering impact.

The performances molded by director Joseph Adler seem too muted for at least half the play, but as secrets tumble out and stakes intensify, everyone in the cast energizes their characters until the last quarter of the play sweeps away any misgivings. These are finely-tuned performances, not showy bravura turns.

The performances are uniformly solid, starting with Weiner who convincingly inhabits the physicality of a man who must rock in his sofa to get enough momentum to stand up, who finds walking unassisted a challenge, who is easily winded and who is doomed by worsening congestive heart failure.

Seen locally on stage since she was a young teen, Hoffman has been “promising” but in need of experience as seen in GableStage’s Hamlet and Palm Beach Dramaworks’ The Effect of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, plus some staged readings.

But here, she zooms past “promising” and delivers a no-excuses no-asterisks performance as Ellie. She and Adler courageously make Ellie a troubled teen covered with an impenetrable coat of razor sharp porcupine needles – as unapologetically and unrelentingly abrasive as Hunter intends.

Sherman has only one scene, but it’s the second best in the script and she just nails it… Sherman’s Mary quickly brings us around, making it clear that raising Ellie has been a life-draining nightmare that has destroyed her life.

Miller Brennan reminds everyone who only thinks of her as a musical theater actress (such as Slowburn’s Chess and Actors’ Playhouse’s Ruthless! earlier this season) that she has the same considerable talent for straight drama. Her Liz is as fiercely protective as a feral creature defending her young. Meanwhile, Urban invests the bright evangelist with an earnest altruism that explains why Charlie allows him to hang around.

Ultimately, it’s a satisfying production of an engaging script by the hot young playwright responsible for A Bright New Boise and The Few.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Each of the five characters in Hunter’s absorbing play, which is getting an exquisitely acted production at GableStage through mid-August, is a damaged and lonely human being.

The Whale is, undeniably, full of serious content and conflict. Hunter explores issues of family abandonment, the religious tug-of-war between compassion and condemnation, and of course the dicey morality of supplying a self-destructive man with the means to do himself in. But the artistry of all those involved — the playwright, director Joseph Adler, an extraordinarily engaging cast — makes the play’s journey as rich and multidimensional as life itself.

Weiner, encased in a convincing 50-pound fat suit created by costume designer Ellis Tillman, literally anchors the production. His Charlie sits on a sagging sofa at centerstage, barely able to hoist himself up to the walker necessary for a laborious trek to the bathroom. Pleasant, smart, stoic and constantly apologetic, Weiner’s Charlie sports a will of iron under all that corpulence.

Arguably the play’s most unforgettable scene is the one that ends with an intricate emotional pas de deux between Weiner and Sherman. Mary blasts into Charlie’s cluttered, modest apartment, in full furious mom mode, ready for another verbal smack down with her disappointing daughter. When the former couple is finally alone, Mary tames her shaking hands with straight vodka, and the two begin a conversation that is part reminiscence, part reckoning. Sherman’s work is raw and powerful, the scene harrowing and beautiful .

On the page, Ellie reads as unrelentingly and sometimes unspeakably cruel. But the charismatic Hoffman creates a totally recognizable teen rebel who wears her aggressiveness like emotional armor, protecting a vulnerable heart. Both skilled and gifted, Hoffman is clearly a young actor with a big future.

Known in the region for her award-winning work in musical theater, Miller Brennan infuses Liz with a finely calibrated balance of humor, frustration and anger.

Urban’s Elder Thomas is, for much of the play, its comic relief, and the actor’s rendition of the character’s blind faith and problematic past work well opposite Hoffman’s manipulative cynicism. But his most powerful scene is his final one with Weiner, as the Mormon boy ardently gives voice to the belief that helped decimate Charlie’s life.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:

As Charlie, Weiner is an endlessly apologizing gay, guilt ridden father, ponderously eating, sweating and manipulating. He’s The Whale or maybe not, for this one act by Samuel D. Hunter, covering five days in Charlie’s life, is a trove of allusions, connections and fascination.

Director Joe Adler has surrounded Weiner with a cast, Amy Miller Brennan, Arielle Hoffman, Deborah Sherman and Kyle Skyler Urban, that under Adler’s direction, gives an evening of theatre to be treasured. And you’ll certainly remember it.

With her powerful performance Amy Miller Brennan brings the conflicted Liz, the ultimate enabler with a drive to keep Charlie alive while killing him with food.

Arielle Hoffman is Ellie, sulkily scary as the malevolent teenager who hates the world and all within. Especially her father and Mary, her mother, played by Deborah Sherman.

Sherman, as the manic Mary, is a whirlwind of hate and rage and unexpected tenderness, the perfect portrait of one abandoned.

Everything in this production connects: Lyle Baskin’s messy, book filled apartment; Jeff Quinn’s slat shadowed lighting and undersea effects together with Matt Corey’s ocean sounds during scene changes; Ellis Tillman’s costumes.

If there’s such a thing as a tragedy that leaves you feeling fine then GableStage has it.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:

…the play receiving its Southeastern premiere at Coral Gables’ GableStage, is as stuffed with themes as Charlie is with meatball subs. While it could stand to be put on an idea diet, it is hard to deny Hunter’s provocative dramatic situation and his ability to create juicy acting roles.

Weiner dominates the production, but director Joseph Adler pulls a couple of terrific performances from his young actors —Hoffman and Urban — which is one of his signature talents. Hoffman inhabits foul-mouthed, belligerent, pot-smoking Ellie with white-hot intensity, in marked contrast to Urban’s oblivious cool demeanor.

The usual GableStage design team helps to create the curious world of The Whale, from Lyle Baskin’s books and pizza boxes-strewn apartment to Ellis Tillman’s character-rich costumes and Jeff Quinn’s understated lighting.

For those more academically inclined than Charlie’s students, Hunter layers his play with allegorical references to Melville’s Moby-Dick and the Bible’s Jonah saga. Still, The Whale is hardly as profound as it wants to be, but it does contain a handful of remarkable characters that audiences are likely to be drawn to and repelled by.

The Whale plays at GableStage through August 17, 2014.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mondays are Dark

theatre_festival_home…except in the summer; the South Florida Theatre League  brings you Summer Theatre Fest, a series of free play readings hosted at member theaters across South Florida. They occur every Monday night through the end of August.  And now that it is August, that means you’ve only got five chances left to catch on.

Tonight, the play is a reading of It Feels Good by Michael Yawney, at GableStage.  You can read about his play on South Florida Gay News.


Now here’s the rest of your Monday reading list:



Boca Magazine reports that several arts organizations in Palm Beach County are transitioning to new leadership, including the Delray Beach Center for the Arts.  If that doesn’t ring a bell, it includes the Crest Theatre.


The Miami Scene

The Miami Herald ran its Sunday arts scene column on schedule, and it includes a notice that Estelle Parsons will be performing in the Palm Beach Dramaworks production of Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady.  Also, the Arsht Center has expanded their schedule, and Conundrum Stages is going all out this Friday at Sunrise Civic Center Theatre.


The Bard in Boca

Boca Tribune fills us in on the upcoming production of The Comedy of Errors being presented by Evening Star Productions later this month.


End of an Era

The Miami Herald reports on the closing of a legend; Ruth Regina’s wig shop in Aventura.  The landlord wants to put another business in there, presumably at a much higher rent.

During a career that coincided with the glory days of showbiz glamor in South Florida, she applied makeup to the faces of presidents and all four of the Beatles; got Gene Kelly to guide her through a dance he did with Judy Garland in 1942’s For Me and My Gal; hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elvis and other stars.

Another Opening

Broadway World reports on the upcoming production of Butterflies are Free, which opened Friday at the Broward Stage Door Theatre.  Michael Leeds directs.


In Other News

The Stage News (UK) reports that nearly two thirds of theatregoers do not read reviews.

Meanwhile the survey found only around 3% of the 317 respondents use social media to discuss a performance after attending the theatre.

Bad, and worse.  What are these people doing, talking face to face?

The majority (around 80%) of those who said they had discussed a show after going to the theatre said they did this face-to-face, rather than via the phone, email, Facebook or Twitter.

How very Elizabethan of them!

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Scene for August 1, 2014

August.  You don’t get any more  summer than August.  We are deep into one of the busiest summer seasons ever.

Isn’t it nice to know that no matter how opressively hot it might get outside, there are nice cool theaters all over South Florida to slip into?

Monday will bring the latest entry in the Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest Reading Series.  
This Monday’s reading is at GableStage, where they will be reading It Feels Good, by Michael Yawney.

Here's what’s playing on the scene this weekend:

The Broward Stage Door Theatre opens Butterflies are Free through September 14.

you still haven't missed...

Actors’ Playhouse opens Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues) through August 17, 2014.  As the title suggests, this is the long-awaited sequel to that blockbuster hit Midlife: The Crisis Musical.
GableStage opens its production of  Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, which runs through August 17.  
The Arsht Center is opening H2OMBRE, its latest immersive summer theatre experience, through August 31. 

last chance to see...

Palm Beach DramaWorks’s has a certifiable hit with its concert version of The Most Happy Fella, which has been extended through August 3rd, tickets are selling fast, so call now.  We’ll be there Saturday evening.
Re-Designing Women plays at Empire Stage through August 3.

community and conservatory... 
Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts presents Les Miserables, through August 3.

The Main Street Players offers Becky's New Car through August 17.


The Area Stage Conservatory offers Sweeny Todd Fridays and Saturdays August 1 through 15.

This week’s entry in the FIU Alternative Theatre Festival is Play On, by Rick Abbot.

for kids...
This is the final weekend for Pinocchio at Actors’ Playhouse. A pleasant and air-conditioned way to pass your Saturday afternoon.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents School House Rock Live! this weekend only.  It’s the junior version, which means it’s kids playing for kids.