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10 posts from May 2009

May 28, 2009

Don't-miss plays

Lots of shows are opening this weekend: the three separate programs of City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival (Signature Shorts, Undershorts and Shorts 4 Kids) in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts;  Neil LaBute's In a Dark Dark House at Mosaic Theatre in Plantation; Strange Snow at the Alliance Theatre Lab in Miami Lakes.

Gregg00_weiner_wknd_GS  But two plays that won't be around much longer are worth clearing your schedule to see.  At Davie's Promethean Theatre, Gregg Weiner, Deborah L. Sherman and David Sirois are doing a deft job of eviscerating both reckless, self-adoring celebrities and tabloid "journalists," Though some of playwright Joe Penhall's plot details seem far-fetched at best, Dumb Show is thrillingly watchable, thanks in part to Margaret M. Ledford's bracing direction.  The performers' British accents are spot on as they allow us to wallow in the pleasure of observing three morally compromised  human beings doing nasty things to one another.  Dumb Show, which is anything but, ends its run this weekend, so scurry on over to the Nova Southeastern University campus where Promethean performs.

Five10_HAVANA_MDS_lpe At Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables, you have two more weekends to catch Cold Case star Danny Pino and his fine fellow actors in Carlos Lacamara's Havana Bourgeois.  The play about Cuban society's gradual erosion -- from the heady, optimistic revolutionary days of 1958 to the cruel realities of Fidel Castro's government, revealed just two years later -- unfolds within the walls of a Havana advertising agency. Under David Arisco's sure direction, James Puig, Jossie Harris Thacker, Jennifer De Castroverde, Oscar Cheda, David Perez Ribada, Joshua David Robinson and Francisco "Pancho" Padura play achievers and strivers, most of whom don't fully grasp the elusive truth until their dreams -- or their lives -- have crumbled.  Particularly for those who lived this and left Cuba (and for the people who love them), Havana Bourgeois becomesan intense, emotional theater experience.

May 27, 2009

"In the Heights" on TV and the road

Creator00_heights_wknd_JM Just a quick late-afternoon heads up, in case the rainy day has you thinking TV tonight:  In the Heights creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda (and his Tony Award-winning show) will be featured from 8 to 9 p.m. on PBS's Great Performances (Ch. 2 in South Florida).  Watch as Miranda talks about the evolution of a hit show that began as a college project at Wesleyan University.

In more Heights-related news, two South Florida actors have been cast in the show's touring company, which begins its journey around the country in Tampa in October.  Both Natalie Caruncho (who will understudy the young female leads) and Oscar Cheda (he'll fill in as the dad/car service owner and the piragua vendor) will be be part of a cast that will play Fort Lauderdale's Broward Center for the Performing Arts March 16-28, 2010.  The two will deepen South Florida's already strong connections to the show:  Musical director/arranger Alex Lacamoire won a Tony for his work on In the Heights, and former Miamians Janet Dacal, Andrea Burns, Carlos Gomez, Nina Lafarga, Tony Chiroldes, Joshua Henry and Afra Hines were all part of the original Broadway cast.

May 21, 2009

McCraney's still soaring

Tarell McCraney (Large)Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose grittily poetic plays are being produced on both sides of the Atlantic (though still not in his hometown of Miami), will receive yet another honor next week, adding to the many he has received since graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 2007.

On Wednesday, May 27, McCraney will receive the first New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award in a ceremony at the newspaper's Manhattan headquarters.  Honoring an American playwright who has made a recent professional debut in New York (McCraney was chosen for The Brothers Size at the Public Theater), the award was determined by a committee of three Times arts editors, Times contributor Sylviane Gold and four impressive playwrights: Edward Albee, Richard Greenberg, James Lapine and brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.

It has been a good spring for the 28-year-old McCraney.  He's back from his part-time job as RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company, was just profiled as part of the Advocate's Forty Under 40 rising stars in various fields, and his trilogy of "Brother/Sister" plays is running at the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., through June 21.

Now, if he could just catch a break in Miami.

May 19, 2009

On the horizon

I'm back from New York, apparently having brought the gray skies and rainy weather with me.  In a week, I saw seven Broadway plays and musicals, plus all three of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "Brother/Sister" plays at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J. -- a phenomenally moving experience, about which I'll be writing soon.  Broadway was busy: Loads of successful shows, though some of the struggling ones have hired unemployed actors to pass out discount coupons to the throngs of tourists coursing down Broadway and Seventh Avenue.  This is kind of genius, a grand step up from the guys who pass out fliers for bus tours of Manhattan:  The actors actually know something about the shows and can hold forth on Eugene O'Neill, Neil LaBute and so on.

Also while I was away, Havana Bourgeois opened at Actors' Playhouse, Dumb Show at The Promethean Theatre, El inconveniente at Teatro 8, and Yankee Tavern had its world premiere at Florida Stage.  I plan to catch up with the shows, but because we didn't want readers to wait, we picked up Bill Hirschman's Havana Bourgeois and Dumb Show reviews for the Sun-Sentinel and sent him to review Yankee Tavern for The Herald; Mia Leonin covered El inconveniente for us.  Just a little inside-baseball note on the Herald's continued commitment to theater coverage.


Also while I was away, New Theatre sent out an updated list of the shows for its 2009-2010 season.  New to the lineup is a production of Peter Shaffer's Equus, a play that was revived on Broadway this season with Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) making an impressive (if not Tony-nominated) New York stage debut.  New Theatre's Equus will run Feb. 25-March 28, 2010, following three world premieres.  For details, call 305-443-5909 or visit the theater's web site.

Two other theaters have free readings on the horizon.

Rising Action's Senior Readers Theatre is offering an evening of short plays and scenes on Friday at 8 p.m.  The theater is at 840 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; call 954-561-2225 or visit the web site for information.

On May 30 at 2 p.m., Conundrum Stages will do a staged reading of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmakerat Collins Community Center, 3900 NE Third Ave. in Oakland Park.  Elizabeth Garrard directs Arthur Bivins, Julia Clearwood, Dominick Daniel, Jeff Holmes, Dan Leonard, Summer Hill Seven and Michael St. Pierre.  Call 954-630-4500 or send an e-mail to conundrumstages@yahoo.com for more info.

May 14, 2009

Raúl Esparza ties a Tony record

I'm in New York this week, seeing seven of the shows vying for various Tony Awards; taking the train out to the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., to see Miami playwright Tarell McCraney's "Brother/Sister Plays" trilogy; doing various interviews (including chats with former South Floridian Marc Kudisch, Tony nominee for 9 to 5: The Musical, and Colombian hottie Sofia Vergara, soon to open in Miami in Chicago).  I'm alsoceleb-spotting:  In addition to the famous folks I'm watching onstage (Marcia Gay Harden, James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis, all Tony nominees for their work in Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage; a radiant if dance-challenged Allison Janney, another Tony contender, in 9 to 5), I saw former Alias star and Broadway veteran Victor Garber when I had dinner at Bond 45 last night.

Raul I also caught up with Raúl Esparza, the former Miamian who has become a Broadway star and frequent Tony nominee.  He's in contention again this year, this time for the leading actor in a play Tony for his searing performance in the now-closed revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow.  And with that nomination, Esparzaties a record held by Boyd Gaines:  The two are the only actors to be nominated in every Tony category for which a male actor is eligible.  But Esparza did it faster.

Gaines, who has won four Tonys and was nominated for a fifth, won his first in 1989 for his featured performance in the play The Heidi Chronicles.  He won again in 1994, for his leading work in the revival of the musical She Loves Me; again in 2000, for his featured performance in the musical Contact; was nominated as lead actor in a play in 2007 for Journey's End; and won again in 2008 for his featured performance in the revival of the musical Gypsy.

Esparza has yet to take home a Tony, though it seems inevitable that, sooner or later, he will. He tied Gaines' record in just six rounds of Tony nominations:  in 2004, as featured actor in a musical for Taboo; in 2007, as leading actor in a musical for Company; in 2008, as featured actor in a play for The Homecoming; and this year as leading actor in a play for Speed-the-Plow, which got loads of press for Jeremy Piven's controversial early exit from the show (he said his docs said the mercury level in his blood was dangerously high).

Esparza and costar Elisabeth Moss (of TV's Mad Men) finished out the limited run, first opposite Norbert Leo Butz, then with Mamet veteran William H. Macy in Piven's role.  But Esparza got the stellar reviews and yet another Tony nomination.  He's not expecting to win -- he thinks the voters will go for Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King -- though of course he'd love to hear his name called when the winner is announced at Radio City Music Hall June 7.  He's already in rehearsals for his next show, the production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at Central Park 's Delacorte Theater June 10-July 12 (he'll play Orsino to Anne Hathaway's Viola).

But no matter how it goes at this year's Tony ceremony, the versatile Esparza has every reason to savor his record-tying nomination.

May 11, 2009

"Anna" actors hit Miami stages

Two actors with ties to Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics will soon hit Miami stages in Spanish-language productions.

First up, in a Hispanic Theater Guild production at Teatro 8, is Grettel Trujillo.  Along with Daisy Fontao and Lyduan González, Trujillo is starring in Spanish playwright Juan Carlos Rubio's El inconveniente, a comedy about a condo sale that gets delayed because a certain owner refuses to die.  Trujillo played Conchita, a married Cuban cigar worker who becomes passionately involved with the man who reads Leo Tolstoy's Anna Kareninato the workers, in Repertorio Español's New York production of Ana en el trópico (that's Anna in Spanish).

El inconvenientebegins performances at 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 15, and runs through June 21 at Teatro 8, 2101 SW Eighth St. in Miami.  Performances are 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $22.50 and $25 (students pay $15).  Call 305-541-4841 or visit the Teatro 8 web site.

Carlos Orizondo

Carlos Orizondo, another Anna alum (he originated the role of Palomo, Conchita's jealous husband, in the New Theatre world premiere and played it again in a Coconut Grove Playhouse production directed by Cruz), is in rehearsal for another Spanish-language production.  Area Stage Company is mounting Venezuelan playwright Gustavo Ott's Tu ternura Molotov, a play about an urban couple whose lives change when they get a mysterious package from the FBI.  Tamara Melián plays Orizondo's other half.

Area's Carbonell Award-winning artistic director, John Rodaz, is staging the play, which previews at 8:15 p.m. May 22, opens May 23 and runs through June 28.  Performances are 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $25 ($40 for couples); on Saturday, single tickets are $30, couples $50.  Students 25 and younger pay $10.

Area Stage is at 1560 S. Dixie Hwy. in Coral Gables.  Call 305-666-2078 or visit the company's web site.

May 08, 2009

Dramaworks builds a thought-provoking season

PbdramaworkslogoTheaters are rolling out their 2009-2010 season announcements, trying to entice new subscribers and , in these hard times for the arts and for everyone, keep the ones they have.  Palm Beach Dramaworks has already announced that it will offer Noel Coward's tartly witty Private Lives this summer (July 15-Aug. 16), and now the company is lifting the curtain on the four shows of its upcoming season.

Dollshouse The drama begins Oct. 16-Nov. 29 with Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, the classic about the "good wife'' Nora and her eventual rebellion.  Next is Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning Copenhagen, a brainy thriller about physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, and the race to develop the atomic bomb (Dec. 18-Jan. 31).  David Mamet's American Buffalo, the explosive dark comedy about inept crooks planning the theft of a coin collection, runs Feb. 19-April 4.  And Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning Three Tall Women, a piece rooted in the playwright's complicated relationship with his difficult mother, ends the season April 23-June 13, 2010.

Subscriptions to the new seasons range from $128 to $192 for four plays, $96 to $150 for three.  Subscribers also get a $4 discount on a ticket to Private Lives.

Palm Beach Dramaworks is located at 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach. For subscription info, call 561-514-4042 or visit the theater's web site.

May 07, 2009

New Theatre, new season

Ricky J Coral Gables' New Theatre, which commissioned and premiered Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics, has found its groove in presenting new plays.  At this year's Carbonell Awards, the theater scored four of five nominations for best new work, and though William Mastrosimone's Dirty Business at Florida Stage won the award, New Theatre's dominance of the category, under the artistic direction of Ricky J. Martinez,  certainly makes a statement.

The company's 2009-2010 season, which begins Aug. 27-Sept. 27 with its annual summer Shakespearean production (this time, The Taming of the Shrew), continues to mix the old (classic plays) and the new (world premieres).

After Shrew, New Theatre premieres David Caudle's In Development, a play set at a conference for aspiring playwrights.  This is no deadly dull meeting, however; well, deadly maybe, as the comedy's plot involves sex, dramaturgy and death. That one runs Oct. 8-Nov. 8.

Next, New Theatre will present one of the National New Play Network premieres of 26 Milesby Quiara Alegria Hudes.  A Pulitzer finalist and the book writer of the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, Hudes tells the story of a Cuban mother who defies a custody ruling, kidnaps her estranged Jewish daughter and hits the road.  It runs Nov.19-Dec. 20.

Sandra Riley's Hour of the Tiger gets its world premiere Jan. 14-Feb. 14, 2010.  It's about the dilemma of an American woman in Japan as she contemplates trying to rescue a geisha.

One more classic will be added to the lineup Feb. 25-March 28, followed by a final world premiere April 8-May 9.

Season subscription prices, which represent a 25 percent discount on single-ticket prices, are $180 for a six-play flexible pass, $150 for a five-play pass (which excludes The Taming of the Shrew).  For information, call 305-443-5909 or visit the New Theatre web site.

May 06, 2009

GableStage lends a hand, while another play sheds light

GroundupAs he has before, GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler is handing over his stage at the Biltmore Hotel to Ground Up & Rising, the edgy young Miami company that specializes in volatile, thought-provoking theater.  Actors Arnaldo Carmouze and Arturo Fernandez will star in benefit performances of John Kolvenbach's On an Average Day, in a production directed by Fernandez.

The two play brothers who reunite in a rundown apartment to recall the dark history they share.  One is a sociopath, the other more successful but still bedeviled by the past.

The benefit performances at GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave. in Coral Gables, are at 8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday (May 11-13).  Admission is $25, with all proceeds going to Ground Up & Rising.  For information, call 305-529-6233 or visit the Ground Up web site.


MinyanThe Jewish Cultural Arts Theatre at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center is opening its production of Naomi Ragen's Women's Minyanat 7 p.m. tonight (May 6).  Ragen, a New York-born author who has lived in Jerusalem for 38 years, wrote the play to address domestic abuse within the Haredi, or ultra-Orthordox Jewish community.  Post-play discussions will follow every performance of the drama.

Women's Minyan will also be performed at 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through May 23 (additional show 2 p.m. May 24).  Tickets are $36 for opening night, $20 and $27 for other shows ($12 for seniors and students).  For information, call 305-932-4200, ext. 130, or visit the theater's web page.  The Russell JCC is at 18900 NE 25th Ave. in Miami.

May 04, 2009

Jerry Herman wins another Tony

Tny_nv_00000g1Nominations for the 63rd annual Tony Awards will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning by Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon and In the Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.  You can bet that the two former Tony winners (she got it for Rabbit Hole, he for Heights, which will hit South Florida next season) will look impossibly perky that ungodly hour when most normal theater folk are still fast asleep.

Jerry_Herman Jumping the gun in several non-competitive categories, the Tony folks on Monday announced the winners of four special awards.  The prestigious 2009 Tony for Lifetime Achievement goes to the University of Miami's own Jerry Herman, whose string of Broadway hits as a composer-lyricist includes Hello, Dolly! and Mame and La Cage aux Folles.  Herman, for whom UM's Ring Theatre is now named, is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he has already collected Tonys for Dolly! and La Cage. But this one has to be special.

EricEach year, the American Theatre Critics' Association offers the Tony committee a recommendation for the Regional Theatre Tony Award.  This year's winner is the Signature Theatre of Arlington, Va.  Under the artistic leadership of Eric Schaeffer, the 20-year-old company has turned its suburban Washington D.C. home into a place where new musicals are developed and where established musicals are freshly interpreted -- the work of Stephen Sondheim in particular. 

Also being honored at this year's Tonys is actress Phyllis Newman, who receives the new Isabelle Stevenson Award for her work raising more than $3.5 million for the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative of the Actor's Fund of America.  And press agent Shirley Herz, a theater publicist for more than half a century, receives the Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre.

The Tonys will be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall on CBS-TV from 8 to 11 p.m. June 7.  For more information on the awards and nominations, visit the Tony Awards web site.