If you were one of Britain's most prolific playwrights, you'd know too well the inflated egos of star directors and actors, not to mention the so-called talents in the lighting and scenery departments. With his House & Garden, Alan Ayckbourn seems to have discovered a brilliant method to exact revenge on these barbarians and nincompoops while still entertaining theater patrons. Imagine two scripts, two theaters, two audiences, and two crews but only one cast flitting back and forth performing the plays in tandem. How best to enjoy such a conspiracy? Do you dash between the theaters as well? Or should you settle down in one and pray for the worst? (Because only when accidents happen do you best get the feeling -- a.k.a. schadenfreude -- you're sharing the experience with another audience.) Presented by the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater (280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables) through June 5, House & Garden revolves around an aspiring politician, his English country home, and a typical set of British characters. Tickets cost $37.50 and $45 for each play. Showtimes are 8:00 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Best bet is the $60 Sunday double feature at 2:00 and 7:00, with dinner intermission at JohnMartin's. Call 305-444-9293, or visit www.actorsplayhouse.org. --Margaret Griffis
In a time when arts organizations are biting the dust because of diminishing funds, it's encouraging to see two local companies merge and expand to produce affordable shows. Maximum Dance Ballet Gamonet premieres this weekend at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts (174 E. Flagler St., Miami) with a show combining traditional ballet and contemporary style. Artistic director Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros almost doubled the corps de ballet so that seventeen dancers can perform a series of proven favorites during the night. Unlike other artistes, Gamonet doesn't think you need an attitude and a degree in art to enjoy the show: "First of all, we have to realize that this is entertainment. You should enjoy it for what it is." A company run by three choreographers guarantees abundant energy onstage tonight and Saturday at 8:00. Tickets cost $25 to $50. Call 305-259-9775, or visit www.maximumdancecompany.com. --Karen Dale WolmanThose Misérables Children!
"Master of the house/Doling out the charm/Ready with a handshake/And an open palm." Yeah, you'll have the song stuck in your head for weeks after seeing the Miami Children's Theater production of Les Misérables. But instead of three hours of rump-numbing nineteenth-century musical goodness, you can enjoy this abridged two-hour "school edition." Don't worry: No musical numbers were sacrificed, and the bloody student uprising will ensue. Follow the struggles of an ex-con trying to make good, Jean Valjean, tonight at 7:00 and Saturday at 8:30 (the show runs through May 15) at the Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112th Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $12 in advance; $15 at the door. Call 305-233-2206, or visit www.miamichildrenstheater.com for a compete schedule. --Lyssa Oberkreser
The photo for Louie & Ophelia, the latest production from the historic M Ensemble Company, says it all: a couple divided, struggling to overcome the differences between them. The play begins at 8:00 p.m. at the M Ensemble Actor's Studio, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami. Admission for tonight's opening cast party is $25. Call 305-895-8955, or visit www.themensemble.com. -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik