By Ciara LaVelle
By Jose D. Duran
By Kat Bein
By Juan Barquin
By Ciara LaVelle
By George Martinez
By Kat Bein
By Ciara LaVelle
Flyin' West: Set in 1898, Flyin' West follows three black sisters who've left the South and struck out on their own, settling in Nicodemus, Kansas. The hardships of freedom and independence are compounded by their struggle to protect themselves from white speculators trying to buy their land and splinter their community. Carolyn Johnson steals the show with her charismatic portrayal of Miss Leah, matriarchal neighbor to the three sisters, who are superbly depicted by Laverne Lewis, Carey Hart, and Lela Elam. The role of blacks in America's westward expansion is not widely known. Flyin' West does an admirable job conveying the story, in particular that of the three sisters, who ultimately find in themselves the strength to survive and build a future. -- CR Through May 9. The M Ensemble Actors Studio, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami. 305-895-8955.
Fully Committed: Catering to obsessed foodies and battling boorish socialites who demand priority seating, Sam Peliczowski books reservations at a wildly popular Manhattan restaurant. Under Gus Kaikkonen's excellent direction, Kraig Swartz plays some two dozen characters -- Sam, the restaurant staff (including the egomaniacal chef), and the culinary crowd -- without ever leaving the set for a costume change. Imbued with Swartz's energy, the cascading incidents make for an engaging plot. The correlation between Sam's personal endeavors and the treacherous social hierarchies he navigates at work create moments of true insight that stand out against the caricature inherent in a play built on so many quick sketches. -- CR Through May 9. Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove. 305-442-4000.
La Cena de los Idiotas: Francis Veber's Le Dîne de Cons was released in the United States as The Dinner Game and screened at the Miami Film Festival in 1999. In its latest incarnation it has been translated into Spanish by Paco Mir and produced by Venevision International in conjunction with the Hispanic Theater Guild. A group of men takes turns inviting a simpleton to dine with them. The guest's social gracelessness allows the hosts to congratulate themselves on what fine specimens they are by comparison. This rollicking adaptation features Juan Manuel Cifuentes as the "idiot" Agustín, who becomes a catalyst for disaster through a series of fallacious phone calls and a case of mistaken identity. Cifuentes's rapid-fire Castilian Spanish hits the audience's funny bone, then ricochets into their hearts with his lovable portrayal of the unwitting nincompoop. While the comedic moments have been broadened, they maintain their honesty. The larger-than-life characterizations and Latin cultural references can be embraced and appreciated by a multinational audience. Julio Kaufmann skillfully directs. The design by Claudia Pecchio is greatly enhanced by abstract art from Alexis de la Sierra. Enrique Cirino's lighting design includes some exquisite practical lighting instruments that double as decorative set dressings. -- CR Through May 9. Venevision International Theater, Riviera Plaza, 1560 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables. 305-663-5410.
Permanent Collection: Thomas Gibbons's Permanent Collection is a must-see examination of race, art, and the media. The play centers on a series of dialogues primarily between Sterling North, an African-American outsider who takes over a prestigious arts foundation, and Paul Barrow, the foundation's long-time director of education. Thanks to Gibbons's deftly constructed text and these highly charged performances, as we watch North and Barrow spar their way through accusations of racism and reverse racism, we really don't know what's going to happen next. -- ML Through April 25. Florida Stage, Plaza Del Mar, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan. 561-585-3433 or 800-541-3837.
Trembling Hands: How far will one friend go for another? In Ivonne Azurdia's grotesque, funny crime drama now in its world premiere by the Mad Cat Theatre Company, the answer is very, very far indeed. Following up on her splendid Tin Box Boomerang, a hit for Mad Cat last season, Azurdia again spins a tale of loyalty, menace, and money woes, this time among three Miami medical-school students whose quest to come up with quick cash leads them into a ghastly scheme that goes haywire. Filled with film noir references and pungent humor, Trembling Hands is another high-energy entertainment from the Mad Cat crew. -- RM Through May 1. The Light Box, 3000 Biscayne Blvd. 305-576-6377.
Waiting for Godot: Robert Hooker's production of Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic at the Sol Theatre Project features a lot of agile physicality and snappy patter with a decidedly hip, modern sensibility. The solid production is anchored by the inspired clowning of Jim Gibbons and Jim Sweet as two road-weary tramps waiting in the middle of nowhere for someone who may never show up. While Hooker's staging misses some of Beckett's deeper meanings, this inventive, high-energy show is smart, fast, and thoroughly engaging. -- RM Through April 25. Sol Theatre Project, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale. 954-525-6555.