By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Ceremonies in Dark Old Men: Some things mature with age, others don't. Almost 40 years after Ceremonies premiered off-Broadway, it still offers a powerfully rich portrayal of a disenfranchised African-American family in crisis. But it also projects such a clichéd, outdated, and stereotypical image of black men that it begs the question: What do we gain from its revival? The play is set in a dingy barbershop in Harlem during the Fifties. The cast is led by the gregarious Jerry Maple, Jr. as patriarch Russell Parker. While the jobless, aging father daydreams of his lost youth, his two no-account sons thieve and loaf. Daughter Adele the lone female and the provider toils in a dead-end office job. The men's struggle for survival ultimately leads them to bootlegging and racketeering. Although the entertaining players shift with polished ease between the intense narrative and hilariously comical interludes, the tragedy that befalls the troupe falls oddly flat. Joanne GreenThrough March 12. M Ensemble, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami; 305-895-0335, www.themensemble.com.
Cradle of Man: With intelligent design worming its way through academia, we could really use a good evolution play that looks at the natural history of man. But even with its promising title, Melanie Marnich's Cradle of Man isn't it. Instead, in a Tanzanian hotel, two American couples cross paths in a tiresome evening of Love Boat-style adultery. Is an intriguing science-versus-religion debate in store? Nope. Cradle of Man uses scientific metaphors to talk ponderously about love and infidelity. It is clunky, with lots of misspent and misconceived emotion that makes you lose faith in its navigation long before it ends. Dave Amber Through March 5. Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan; 561-585-3433.
King Hedley II: This isAugust Wilson's last work in his epic nine-play cycle that recorded the twentieth-century African-American experience. Its hero is not a reigning monarch but an ex-con living in 1985 Pittsburgh who has served a seven-year jail sentence for manslaughter. As his victim's cousin prowls the city streets seeking revenge, the title character tries desperately to escape his past and make a dishonest buck selling dubiously acquired refrigerators. However, trapped by economic circumstance, King is driven to robbery. No matter how hard he struggles to resist his ancestral burden, Wilson's emotionally charged plot implies the odds are so heavily stacked against the black urban poor that their choices are severely limited. Solid performances make this play consistently entertaining despite its three-hour run time. Joanne GreenThrough February 25. Black Box Theater, Carrie P. Meek Senior and Cultural Center, 1300 NW 50th St., Miami; 866-390-4534.