A Captive Audience

Not a flawlessly written play -- the beginning calls for a distracting series of blackouts, and Du's final fate remains ambiguous -- and not receiving a flawless presentation, Keely and Du, as admirably produced by New Theatre, raises disturbing and provocative questions. After seeing it, you're likely to find yourself searching for elusive answers for days to come.

Stage Whispers
Call it passion. Call it commitment. Call it folly. But a quartet of Miami actors in love with the stage has created a new downtown theater company. Never mind that small local theaters are next to impossible to sustain in an art-unfriendly cultural climate. Never mind that downtown Miami rolls up its sidewalks at the end of the workday and sleeps through the weekend. The cofounders of 3rd Street Black Box believe they've hit on a formula for success: serving up theater in the backroom of a restaurant-bar (San Villa Oriental at 230 NE Third St.) where audiences can quench their thirsts and dine before or after the show. "We want to make theater more like the way it was originally intended," asserts company artistic director and former New World School of the Arts student Todd Allen Durkin. "Like a big festival in Greece, where people were eating and drinking and watching plays. And having a good time."

Don't expect an undisciplined bacchanalia after dark, however. These guys have given their company's success some serious thought. "We're a lot more organized than a lot of other theaters we know," insists executive director Faisal Hasan, a New World senior. "Most of the theaters our classmates have begun have basically started because as actors they wanted to do a play and then later they've become a company [as a result of that play's] success. Ours is just the opposite process. We want to become a company that caters to the audience as well as to our actors."

Hasan, Durkin, and their cohorts J.P. Mulero and Ralph de la Portilla (the last two also former New Worlders) seem to understand that building a theater with a long-term vision -- as opposed to limping along play by play -- requires a strategy. So to begin they have secured some space at San Villa, located a block west of Bayside. No, not the restaurant's karaoke corner, but a separate room with a proscenium stage that the actors-turned-producers have painted black and outfitted with hand-me-down theater seats from the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre, as well as with rented lights. They have also assigned themselves administrative duties: Alongside Hasan as executive director and Durkin as artistic director sit Mulero as vice president and de la Portilla as the public relations man. And rather than plunging into an ambitious and expensive full-season lineup, they have scheduled what Durkin calls their "preseason," intended to, as he puts it, "raise money to present a season." So far this preseason has included two one-night showcases of work performed by New World-affiliated talent: Kelly Briscoe's one-woman show about Judy Garland, The Other Side of the Rainbow; and Octavio Campos and Corinna Burrough's performance piece 3 Way Soup. Last week Carbonell Award nominee David Kwiat opened his solo show John Barrymore: Confessions of an Actor. Performed throughout the U.S., as well as in London and at Scotland's famed Edinburgh Festival, the work will run through April 6.

Once the preseason has made a full-fledged season possible, programming will reportedly include dramas such as August Strindberg's Miss Julie, David Mamet's Edmond, and Israel Horovitz's Line. Definitely not invited to the party, according to Durkin, are "your typical Neil Simon or a musical like 42nd Street. Things that have been done here over and over. No revivals. Because there's no more room in Miami to do those things any more." For information on John Barrymore: Confessions of an Actor or future shows, call 381-9613.

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