Unsteady As She Goes

While ACME struggles with finding a space and money, and the always topnotch AREA stage fears losing their home on Lincoln Road because of rising rents, the Performing Arts Trust tried to convince me that building a $172- million-dollar symphony and opera complex with scant room for theater would not harm the local theater community; the trust's advocates argued that the new edifice would not take away contributions or attention from small theater groups. I doubt it. Perhaps the members of the growing Theatre League of South Florida -- an organization composed of all the venues in the four counties -- should stop patting each other on the back and throwing excellent Christmas parties and instead exercise a campaign among theater lovers, challenging the phonies who want their showy Performing Arts Center at any cost.

On a cheerier note, two brave and interesting theater festivals graced our area. The Hispanic Theater Festival introduced Spanish-speaking audiences to some fine work from Argentina and Spain. Far superior, though, was the Key West Theater Festival, which, with the help of more than 60 dramaturgs unveiled three major works: The Bed Plays by Shel Silverstein; Parting Gestures by local playwright Rafael Lima; and West Coast author Bill Svanoe's experimental and excellent Trader Jack and the Stinger.

The road shows remained consistently competent with a luscious production of Phantom of the Opera and Crazy for You, and an uneven unveiling of the watered-down rock opera, The Who's Tommy. But then again, these are the people with the big bucks, so expect nothing less or ask for your $70 back.

For my money, the best of the year were:
1) Oleanna at the Grove Playhouse, which, fortunately, is still running (see "Theater Listings" for more information).

2) Mountain at New Theatre, a company whose work this year has proved consistently fine.

3) Zombie Prom at the Studio Theatre, a campy rock musical workshopped here and now on its way to New York.

All told, I wouldn't have missed this seminal year in South Florida. I just wish I'd had a crystal ball and missed the shows in which the artistic directors lost all sense of judgment and taste. I hope that in 1994 the pendulum between the stage of wisdom and the stage of foolishness will still swing, but not so widely.

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