By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Aida: A powerhouse trio of principals makes the Actors' Playhouse Aidaa fabulously entertaining evening of theater and one of the season's happiest surprises. For those who already love the show, here is a chance to experience the Elton John-Tim Rice score persuasively, passionately sung and acted by Desmon N. Walker, Christopher A. Kent, and Melanie Penn -- as exciting a lineup as this show is likely to have and, in the case of Kent's Radames, an improvement on the original Broadway cast. On the other hand, for those who find this dumbing-down of Verdi's opera more than a little appalling, David Arisco's production, conducted with zest by Eric Alsford, nearly makes a case that the music is not as bad as it sounds. -- Octavio Roca Through April 10. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-444-9293.
Ann and Debbie: It can't possibly be their fault, so don't blame the stars. In fact give Lucie Arnaz and Elizabeth Ashley two points for doing everything humanly possible to try making this dud about an odd couple of widows actually work. All their glamour, presence, acting and overacting, terrific timing, gorgeous legs, and distinctive voices (together with wishing, hoping, and praying, for all I know) still can't make Lionel Goldstein's slight, vulgar, mindless little skit pass for a real play. Harmless schlock just ain't what it used to be. -- Octavio Roca Through April 10. Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Miami; 305-442-4000.
The Diaries: This mess of a play begins with the suggestion of something much better. A young American scholar is about to give a talk on campus on the subject of his Nazi grandfather's diaries, controversial documents that may be either a monster's apology or the candid testimony of a moralist caught in unspeakably immoral times. This is promising stuff. And a great play might be written on these themes. John Strand's silly affair, directed by Rafael de Acha, is not it. -- Octavio Roca Through April 3. The New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909.
Stones in His Pockets: Marie Jones's play centers on a small Irish town in picturesque County Kerry which is invaded by a major Hollywood film production. This clash of movie types and locals offers a colorful array of characters, all played by two resourceful Irish actors, George C. Heslin and Declan Mooney. The two-man concept has theatrical appeal but there are costs -- Michael Hall's production is quick and deft but some of the characters are mere caricatures, and much of the play's emotional texture is missing. -- Ronald Mangravite Through April 3. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-241-7432.