By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Well before the Albee fest, however, you'll have time to shake out your glitter gowns and brush off your tuxedos for the Broadway Series opening. Linda Balgord as Norma Desmond arrives at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for her closeup with Mr. DeMille in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical theater rendition of Billy Wilder's classic noir film Sunset Boulevard (September 29 through November 9). Another diva vehicle, slated for spring, is Terrence McNally's Master Class, although the actress playing Maria Callas has yet to be cast. The star-fueled series also includes Christopher Plummer in Barrymore and Mariette Hartley and Elliott Gould in Deathtrap.
Coconut Grove Playhouse opens its season in October with Jean Cocteau's Indiscretions, a decadent farce about a family's incestuous propensities. Fittingly, it stars Joan Van Ark and Linda Gray, actresses known for their roles in two of television's most infamous prime-time soaps, Knots Landing and Dallas. Also on tap: Palm Beach, a world premiere musical from composer Charles Strouse, of Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, and Applause fame.
Stephen Metcalfe's Strange Snow, the first play produced by the recently established Americas Theatre Group at the Florida Shakespeare Theatre, opens next week in the company's state-of-the-art space in the Biltmore Hotel. The group's diverse season includes the "Peanuts" musicals, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, as well as Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra playing in repertory.
New Theatre's lineup, including contemporary offerings from Jon Robin Baitz and Tina Howe, will culminate next summer in Tony Kushner's immensely challenging two-part epic, Angels in America. Meanwhile, Actors' Playhouse inaugurates its second year at the Miracle Theater in the Gables with Big River, a 1985 musical based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Miami Beach's Area Stage continues to enjoy success with Loretta Greco's Passage. With private investors showing an interest in funding a traveling production, artistic director John Rodaz hopes to mount the highly theatrical docudrama in Washington, D.C., and New York City later this year. Plans for subsequent shows at Area's Lincoln Road space include Nicholas Wright's intriguing Mrs. Klein and Nicky Silver's out-there Raised in Captivity. The EDGE/Theatre on Espanola Way offers an arresting mix, including parody (Cute Boys in Their Underpants), contemporary classics (the Albee pieces), and original work by artistic director Jim Tommaney. And on October 25 and 26, Miami Light Project hosts actor Danny Hoch at the Colony Theater in his Obie Award-winning one-man show, Some People, in which he hilariously morphs from one New York City character to another.
Back over the causeway in downtown Miami, the energetic company members of 3rd Street Black Box report ambitious plans to present Eric Bentley's adaption of Fernando de Rojas's Celestina, Maria Irene Fornes's Mud, and Caryl Churchill's latest work, The Skriker.
Having pioneered Miami's Design District as an outpost for art and theater last year, ART-ACT Production will be joined in the neighborhood by Imazari Theatrical Works and Akropolis Acting Company. ART-ACT continues to present irreverent pieces, including a Tennessee Williams parody, The Glass Mendacity, and Claudia Allen's Movie Queens, about gays and lesbians in Hollywood. Among Imazari's offerings are Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy and Mac Wellman's Seven Blowjobs, while Akropolis will produce three original dance theater pieces created by company members Ricky J. Martinez, Giovanni Luquini, and Jennylin Duany.
On Biscayne Boulevard and NE 71st Street, director Marta Garcia, actor Nancy Gomez, and performance artist Octavio Campos unveil The Next Stage, a performance arts space in which they will present interdisciplinary collaborations, beginning with October's ENATOWAP.
Just across the county line, Florida Playwrights' Theatre in Hollywood offers an array of off-Broadway revivals, including works by Charles Ludlam, William Luce, and Christopher Durang. Right next door, Hollywood Boulevard Theatre's blend of musicals and world premieres also includes Noel Coward's Hay Fever and Nell Dunn's cheeky Steaming, about six women hanging out in a Turkish bath. In the spring, Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre will present the recent Broadway hit revival The Heiress. And, not surprisingly, Manalapan's world-class Pope Theatre plans a compelling year of piercingly written dramas and comedies, including Richard Dresser's Kafka-esque Below the Belt and Staci Swedeen's celebratory exploration of family life, Three Forks.
The South Florida theater scene has evolved since the days when Coconut Grove Playhouse and the Broadway Series were the only games in town. Now, a spectrum of programming -- from the traditional to the cutting-edge -- offers audiences broad dramatic perspectives. The challenge now is for the majority of the work to move from merely pleasant to sublime.