Avi Hoffman and Sandy Ives: "How much for the little boy?"
by Susan J. Westfall. With Avi Hoffman, Sandy Ives, Chaz Mena, Stephen G. Anthony, Kim Ostrenko and Katya Ilina. Through June 3 at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-44-9293; www.actorsplayhouse.org.
I'm skeptical, and so I do what I do when I am skeptical in theaters in the middle of plays that I'm not entirely sure about: Try to drink all the Chivas at the bar. But I'll be damned if I'm not utterly captivated the moment they crank up Act II. My date is right. This horrifies me, but I don't mind suddenly conversations between Jack and the Russian "adoption facilitator," Victor (the dashingly passionate Chaz Mena), take on world-historic overtones, forcing clashes between the easy idealism of privilege and the hardscrabble necessities of deprivation. Suddenly it seems interesting that Jack and Beth might be great parents, even though their interest in the boy from Russia has as much to do with accessorizing as child-rearing. They're willing to save him from poverty, provide for him and love him, so long as he looks good in their son's bunk bed. This is a demonstration of the enduring promise of the American Dream at its most absurdly optimistic.
And golly: If I ignore the gooier aspects of this thing, I find myself really rooting for these poor people Russians and Yanks alike. These are good folks brought to life by fine actors, and they're all trying to get ahead an arch democratic value, and one well worth getting chummy with in the theater. Which only goes to show you: It's a violent and uncertain world, but life lessons can be found just about anywhere. When it comes to children, buying used is just as good as buying new, and critics don't know shit.