Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown: The good news here is Guillermo Reyes is a major voice in Hispanic and gay theater, and his 1994 comedy Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown is nothing short of brilliant. The really bad news, however, is the amateur show of the same name that EDGE/Theatre is presenting at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens doesn't do the playwright or his potential audience any favors. It is an incompetently directed, slow, and dull affair with a cast that -- with the exception of Andrio Chavarro -- is simply not up to the demands of the script. -- Octavio Roca Through July 31. EDGE/ Theatre at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, 2000 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach; 786-355-0976.
The Merchant of Venice: Rafael de Acha's production is not perfect, but it also cannot be dismissed. It boasts gripping and often extraordinary performances by Steve Gladstone, Annemaria Rajala, Euriamis Losada, Nicholas Richberg, and Stephen S. Neal, as well as spectacularly lovely costumes by Estela Vrancovich and singularly touching original music by de Acha himself. One could quibble that the rest of the cast is not on that level, or that the streamlined script sacrifices much in the way of subtlety. One of Shakespeare's notoriously problematic plays, The Merchant of Venice has been banned as anti-Semitic and championed as an argument for humanism. The text seems to support both views, and the show in Coral Gables is far from certain in tone. But there is no denying the power of this staging. And though the famous trial scene remains troublesome, by the time the improbably happy musical finale comes around, it is easy to understand the ovation at the end. -- Octavio Roca Through July 31. New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909.
Modern Orthodox:Culture clash always makes for great comedy. It's fun to poke fun at ourselves through the archetypes we witness colliding on stage and screen. In this engagingly cute show, playwright Daniel Goldfarb brings culture clash to temple, with a battle between Orthodox Jews and their liberal, Reformed Jew opposites. Before Manhattan financier Ben Jacobson can pop the question to his obstetrician girlfriend of six years, Hannah Ziggelstein, he needs a ring; enter the young Hasidic diamond merchant Hershel Klein. Before sealing the diamond deal, Hershel negotiates to flop on the couple's couch until he meets his own betrothed, for whom he searches via jewdate.com. Farces live or die in the quality of comedic timing. If you can hear the comedy engine's gears knocking, it's a clunker. Director Michael Hall, however, fine-tuned this engine to hum. Metaphorically speaking, Modern Orthodox has the large carat of talented presentation, and it definitely has color. But the play falls short in the plot line's cut and clarity. -- Dave Amber Through July 31. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-241-7432.
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