Acting Superior

At the same time ACME's acting up a storm, an independent group ominously called S.O.O.T. Productions manages to stage (at the Minorca Playhouse) a well-done revival of the Reaganomics-flavored hit Eastern Standard, by Richard Greenberg. Revolving around a group of New York yuppies who meet in an upscale restaurant during a bag lady's sudden assault on them, the play's short on plot but wealthy in dialogue. Two couples (one gay, one straight), a waitress aspiring to be an actress, and the bag lady herself wind up sharing a summer house in the Hamptons -- with mixed results. Greenberg owns a wonderful ear for Trump wanna-bes: Phoebe, an ex-junk bond princess, describes her newnice-guy boyfriend as "having no plumage." Homeless May defensively barks, "I used to be lower middle class, you know." But sometimes the themes and conflicts seem as dated as The Donald himself. Gays barely acquainted with AIDS and workers so flush they can glibly quit their jobs belong to a fluffier decade.

Director Madison Tyler stages seamlessly, and should thank himself for rounding up a skillful cast. Particularly excellent are David Caprita (otherwise known as the morning deejay on Love 94), nicely underplaying a closet AIDS victim, Dagmar Bergan as the bombastic bag lady, and Melissa Cochran, who as the dopey waitress expertly juggles tricky monologues. Without the aid of a set or lights (both were minimal at best), S.O.O.T. put on a very tidy show. They ought to change their name to something more appealing and appear more often in local venues.

The foundation of great drama, of course, lies in the drama itself. But even a sweet piece turns to sludge when the actors do nothing more than memorize lines. Fortunately, South Florida marches forward, with more true thespians lying with much greater finesse than any of this country's politicians.

THE BENEFITS OF DOUBT by Joe Sutton, directed by Adalberto J. Acevedo; with Gregg Todd Davis, Ellen Rae Littman, Marcy Rudershausen, Robert Sindler, Ed Anderson, and Al Espinosa. At ACME Acting Company, 955 Alton Rd, Miami Beach, through August 24. Performances Tues -- Sat 8:15 p.m.; Sundays 7:15 p.m. Tickets cost $12.50-$15.00. Call 531-2393.

EASTERN STANDARD by Richard Greenberg, directed by Madison Tyler; with David Caprita, Melissa Cochran, Steven Harad, Thomas Paglia, Denise Celina Sanchez, and Dagmar Bergan. At the Minorca Playhouse, 232 Minorca Ave, Coral Gables through August 30. Performances Saturdays 8 p.m., Sundays 7 p.m.. Donation of your choice. Call 446-1116.

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