A Beach Too Far

Salvation has never seemed less appealing. Who would want to live in a world peopled with such vapid characters, artificial actions, and insipid dialogue as presented here? For example, when the extraterrestrials ask Titania if she is successful, she reveals only her desire for "the hand of God to hold me like a futon for eternity." Not that the interplanetary interlopers offer any more wisdom: Here in part to dissuade us from shallow posturing, they sagely advise only to "look beyond beauty to the siren soul."

The cast members, like the majority of the characters, are mere mortals, yet it would take superhuman acting ability to breathe life into such vacuous dialogue. Rogers offers the most diversion, mining Tommaney's script for Carlos's comic moments and valiantly trying to convey real emotions amid the contrived pathos. Taking her role as the oracle of South Beach much too literally, Mendes delivers Titania's lines as thudding pronouncements; still, she creates some semblance of character, while the others merely mouth wretched words.

Hal Brooks's direction agonizingly reinforces the courtroom motif by allowing each character to stand up or move about the stage only when he or she is being questioned. Likewise, Tommaney's script comes across more as wearisome testimony than dramatic narrative; his characters relate feelings and actions but are never given scenes in which to portray them. Consequently, South Beach -- The Play is much more of a tell than a show.

Great dramas, even those with science fiction trappings, succeed largely because they are based in reality. Although most of Tommaney's play strains credibility, one aspect rings true: the narcissistic South Beach denizens' self-deluding pursuit of their own pleasures. Watching this third production of South Beach -- The Play in the Espanola Way theater, I had to agree that EDGE's artistic director turned playwright had indeed come up with a compelling real-life parallel.

South Beach -- The Play.
Written by Jim Tommaney; directed by Hal Brooks; with Andria Angora, Michael W. Brooks, Jr., Justin Carrano, Annie Henk, Isabela Mendes, T. Veronica Puleo, Kenneth Michael Rogers, and Chris Vicchiollo. Through July 27. For more information call 531-6083 or see "Calendar Listings.

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