By Any Other Name ... Romeo & Juliet

 By Any Other Name ... Romeo & Juliet: Ballsy as all hell to inaugurate a new theater company with a reworking of Romeo & Juliet, isn't it? That's what Antonio Amadeo's Naked Stage is up to, and bless them for it. The general idea is thus: What makes Romeo & Juliet work so well are not the traditional staples of the story that people cling to so ferociously — the youth of its protagonists, the vast hoardes of bloodthirsty Venetians. So the Naked Stage has cut them out, giving Shakespeare's words a slightly new canvas, while hopefully retaining all of their impact. John Manzelli directs. With Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo, Ken Clement, Michaela Cronan, Kameshia Duncan, Margie Elias Eisenberg, Aran Graham, David Perez-Ribada, Adam Simpson, and Bechir Sylvain. — Brandon K. Thorp Through May 13 at The Pelican Theatre at Barry University, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Call 954-261-1785, or visit www.nakedstage.org.

Melt: Some of the finest actors in South Florida (Stuart Meltzer, Sheaun McKinney, et al.) star in this world premiere of a play by one of SoFla's most beloved theatrical polymaths (Michael McKeever) in one of Miami's loveliest, most intimate venues (New Theatre). Michael McKeever's play is an examination of the strange commingling of values, traditions, history, and heart that lies at the root of Miami; a portrait of three families — one Jewish, one Cuban, and one African-American — whose stories interweave and eventually become one. Ricky J. Martinez directs; John Felix, Sheaun McKinney, Stuart Meltzer, Javier Siut, Marta Velasco, and Tara Vodihn star. — Brandon K. Thorp Through May 6 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Call 305-443-5909, or visit www.new-theatre.org.

Animals & Plants: An extraordinarily listless story about two low-level drug runners stuck in a North Carolina motel in the middle of a blizard: One is desperate to find himself, the other desperate to lose himself, and Animals & Plants is a snapshot of the moment when they must each choose to do so or not. Influencing their decisions, and sometimes forcing their hands, are angry bears, a cactus, a dictionary, a supernaturally nasty scorned husband who will occasionally stop in to use the restroom, and a sexy psychic from the local head shop. It's very much in the style of playwright Adam Rapp to milk a potentially ugly situation for not just humor (like, say, David Mamet), but for actual uplift. That's what he does here, in his own quirky and improbably beautiful way. Paul Tei directs; Erik Fabregat, Joe Kimble, Kei Berlin, and Scott Genn star. — Brandon K. Thorp Through April 28 at Mad Cat Theatre at The Light Box, 3000 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Call 305-576-4350, or visit www.madcatheatre.com

Samson et Dalila: Camille Saint-Saens's most well-loved expression of his wild terror of women still packs houses with regularity. In the hands of Florida Grand Opera, it is eminently worth seeing, though maybe not for the reasons Saint-Saens had in mind.While originally intended as a demonstration of a pure musical aesthetic, now Samson et Dalila is simply a very beautiful noise. Try to draw great meaning out of it and you're in for a boring night. Take it as an aesthetic triumph, as a moment of sonic and visual beauty and of passion deftly given voice, and you may leave the theater breathless. Samson et Dalila is a fine vocal showcase, but the true highlight of Florida Grand Opera's production may well be the production itself. The scenery on display at Florida Grand Opera is uncanny: temple steps that seem to stretch hundreds of yards into an infinite desert; Dalila's psychedelic prehistoric shag-pad; an epic and singularly depressing millstone; the Philistine's Temple of Dagon. The sets are utterly seductive: In the Temple, the Philistines go crazy in a balletic orgy to the strains of "Bacchanalia," while Samson stands eyeless in Gaza, looking glum. So alluring is the scene and so entrancing is the music from the massively enthusiastic (if underpowered) orchestra, that most modern operagoers will find themselves siding with the Philistines. — Brandon K. Thorp Through May 6 at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Call 800-741-1010, or visit www.fgo.org.

 
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