Balm in Gilead: Lanford Wilson was a master of realistic dialogue in which monologue, conversation, and direct address to the audience overlap. Written in 1965, this work was the playwright's first full-length play. The drama takes place in Frank's Café, a seedy all-night diner in New York City's Upper Broadway neighborhood in the late Seventies. The action loosely centers around Joe, a cynical drug dealer; and Darlene, a naive new arrival to the Big Apple, over the course of three days. The remainder of the 30-member cast comprises the hookers, pimps, transvestites, drug dealers, and winos to name a few who also frequent the restaurant. Lost, desperate, and struggling to survive, the characters engage in amoral, often criminal activity to provide temporary relief from their innate boredom and suffering. But as we glimpse past their sordid surroundings, Wilson shows us that, despite race, sex, class, or occupation, we are all addicts: We all crave love, attention, belonging, and hope. Joanne GreenThrough April 16. Presented by FIU at the Black Box Studio Theatre, University Park Campus, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-348-2237, www.fiu.edu/~thedan/theatre.
The Taking of Miss Janie: Ed Bullins is one of the most influential and controversial names in African-American history. Spike Lee may be more familiar and in modern literary circles, Toni Morrison's moniker may spark more interest. But Bullins, a prize-wining African-American playwright who dominated the theatre scene between 1962 and 1982, is playwright royalty. And this is one of his finest works. Set at a UCLA college party during the Sixties, Miss Janie traces the near impossible relationship between black radicals and white liberals. If you think this sounds like every other racially based play that predictably ends up preaching a life lesson about learning to love one another, think again. Bullins means business, and no one is exempt from his in-your-face, sulphorously frank prose. "Jews, niggers, politics, Germans, sociology, the past, drugs, men, dykes, phonies everything is bunched up together," strung-out Jewish junkie Mort Silberstein spits out during the final scenes. And that sums up the plot. Well, almost. Miss Janieoffers a frank and sincere look at race relations from a slightly different vantage point. And it hammers home the point that no matter what creed or color, every single one of us has a devil inside. Joanne Green Through April 23. AAPACT at Charles Hadley Black Box Theatre, 1300 NW 50th St., Miami; 1-866-390-4534, www.aapact.com.