It's Elementary, I Fear

A great production of a not-so-great thriller creates mysteries of its own

Which gives rise to the real mystery.

Why doesn't Actors' Playhouse offer material that matches its capabilities? The company has found a real groove with its presentation of musicals, large and small. But in its straight-play selection, Arisco and company look like an All-Star basketball team making a series of slam dunks on a basket that's set at five feet high. Maybe big-cast classics are out of the question. Maybe serious modern drama is too. But there are elevated, thoughtful comedies that could prove both economical and popular. Are Wilde or Shaw or Coward not to be seen on major South Florida stages? Only companies with strong audience bases, significant production resources, proper facilities, and creative personnel can rise to the challenge of great plays. Actors' Playhouse enjoys all of these advantages. It may not be the Playhouse's job to deliver such works but if not, who will?

Dr. Watson, I presume this is a big-time fun-time performance in need of a little more scripting
Dr. Watson, I presume this is a big-time fun-time performance in need of a little more scripting


By Charles Marowitz, directed by David Arisco. With Ken Clement, Heath Kelts, Lisa Morgan, Bob Rogerson, and Claire Tyler. Through February 9 at the Actors' Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-444-9293.

Miss Nelson Is Missing By Joan Cushing, adapted from the book by Harry Allard and James Marshall, directed by Earl Maulding. Saturdays through February 8 at the Actors' Playhouse Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, Miracle Theatre.

Sherlock is not the only game afoot at the Playhouse. Younger playgoers and their families might want to head upstairs to the company's balcony theater, where a new musical for children, Miss Nelson Is Missing, continues on in its world premiere run. Miss Nelson, written by Joan Cushing and based on the popular book by Harry Allard and James Marshall, is the winner of the Playhouse's National Call To Competition for musicals aimed at young audiences and headlines the company's National Children's Theatre Festival. The production is crisply staged by AP Children's Theatre director Earl Maulding, and features a cast of professional actors. Miss Nelson centers on a classroom of unruly elementary school students who don't mind their kindly teacher Miss Nelson. But when she suddenly disappears and is replaced by a tyrannical substitute teacher, they go on a quest to bring Miss Nelson back.

The festival kicked off with a Family Festival Fun Day, which featured two performances of Miss Nelson plus dance, puppetry, and storytelling performances; classes in acting and makeup; a free breakfast; and all sorts of kid-friendly activities. For a ten-dollar ticket price, the well-produced event was easily one of the best entertainment bargains of the year. For next year's festival, the Playhouse plans to host guest companies to present their own productions as part of the ever-expanding program.

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