'Tis the Tradition Season

When the holidays roll around, old standbys tumble in

The production design aids this time travel. E. Marcus Smith's set brings an authentic detail -- everything from the plates to the radio are pulled from the 1940s. The uncredited costume design is equally evocative. Same goes for Apon Nichol's delicate lighting design, though this is marred somewhat by awkward, unnecessarily abrupt light shifts.

The cast features only one experienced performer, Dorothy J. Morrison as the wisecracking Quilley, but it is a credit to director Jerry Maple, Jr., that the rest of the ensemble certainly holds its own. Kwame Riley does well as the slow-speaking, timid Husband, while the statuesque, striking Amaali turns Lou Bessie into a primping, posing femme fatale. But this production's great find is Carolyn Johnson in the title role. Johnson, who makes her professional debut here, brings an emotional honesty and focus that belies her lack of experience. Let's hope she will be seen again, and soon, on area stages.

The M Ensemble, which has been producing theater "to promote the African-American culture and experience" in South Florida, picked up a special Carbonell Award last month in recognition for its over 30 years of arts service. If you haven't dropped by the company's dandy, comfortable space, now is a good time to enjoy this enduring South Florida tradition.

So long, farewell -- wait, hello, we're back, we're the von Trapps!
So long, farewell -- wait, hello, we're back, we're the von Trapps!

Details

The Sound Of Music Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse, directed by David Arisco. With Jennifer Hughes, Michael Scoot, Gary Marachek, Sandra Ives, Mary Grace Gordon, Karina Padura, and many others. Through Dec. 29 at the Actors Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-444-9293. The Old Settler By John Henry Redwood, directed by Jerry Maple, Jr. With Amaali, Carolyn Johnson, Dorothy J. Morrison, and Kwame Riley. Through Dec. 22 at M Ensemble Company, 12320 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami; 305-895-8955.

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