By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
The Boys Next Door: This is a heart-warming, brilliantly acted look at the lives of four mentally challenged men. Arnold (Michael Collins) constantly spells out the injustices of life, threatening to move to Russia if his grievances go unacknowledged. A chubby and lovable Norman (Jason Scott Quinn) always has a doughnut hiding somewhere. Lucien (Brandon Morris) mumbles the alphabet. Barry (Jeffrey Bower) seems the most normal but is really schizophrenic. This odd assembly is watched over by Jack (Wayne LeGette), who narrates, revealing his own frustrations. Author Tom Griffin skillfully allows the audience to laugh while gaining respect for a diverse and often misunderstood group. -- Rachel Galvin Through February 6. Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West PalmBeach; 561-625-6010.
Enchanted April: The tale begins in 1922 in dreary England, where a frumpy Lotty Wilton (Cary Anne Spear) finds herself dissatisfied with her tyrannical husband and her humdrum existence. Escape comes through an ad in the paper -- a castle in Italy for rent. Heart aflame with possibility, she ropes a reluctant friend, Rose (Laura Turnbull), into the vacation scheme. To help pay the bills, Lotty and Rose bring along two other ladies. The foursome makes a peculiar party, but the castle suits them, and the unfolding relationships are moving. Spear is priceless, turning from flighty victim to natural and exuberant leader of the group. Turnbull evolves from a repressed wife into a woman ready to accept love. -- Rachel Galvin Through February 13. Caldwell Theater, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-241-7432.
Paul Bunyan: The minor works of a genius are often more rewarding than the best that lesser mortals can bring. In the case of Paul Bunyan, the unclassifiable musical entertainment that had its South Florida premiere at Miami-Dade Auditorium and moves to the Broward Center through the end of the month, the rewards are actually double: this is the work of not one but two young gay geniuses, Benjamin Britten and W. H. Auden. It is by no means a perfect work, but its challenges are timely, its pleasures immense. -- Octavio Roca January 27 and 29 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 800-741-1010.
Real Men: Charles Strouse takes a radical departure from his conventional hits in this plotless song cycle about middle-age men and their emotional struggles. The hit-and-miss music ranges from Broadway-style tunes to complex, radical harmonies. Jeffrey B. Moss's visually striking staging features a terrific cast of four but the show needs cutting and more conceptual framing. Still this intriguing world-premiere experiment pushes the boundaries of musical theater and is worth seeing. You can catch that revival of Strouse's Annie another time. -- Ronald Mangravite Through January 30. Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Miami; 305-442-4000.