Stage Capsules

No Child...

Through May 17 at GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 307-446-1116; gablestage.com

Here's an original story idea: An idealistic teacher goes to an inner-city school and teaches a bunch of toughs about the beauty of learning and art, and gives them an inkling of their own potential and self-worth for the first time in their whole wasted, ghettolicious lives. Le yawn. Thank God for actress Lela Elam, who makes this tatty old formula seem if not new, then at least vital. She plays with great verve not only the teacher, but also the students, two of her co-workers, the principal, and an old janitor. Elam works it nonstop for 90 sweat-drenched minutes, never pausing for breath and never slipping up. It's such an impressive display that the story is almost secondary. See it.

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Mauritius

Through May 17 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909; new-theatre.org

Mauritius is a play about overvalued bits of paper and the way people screw each other over in order to get them. We're talking about stamps, but also money — both figure heavily in this giddy little whirlwind of a story. The show is an allegorical exploration of capitalism through the lens of philately, or perhaps, in some crazy way, it's the other way around. That giddy little whirlwind scoops up two half-sisters, one professional philatelist (that's a stamp enthusiast), one professional arms dealer and amateur philatelist, and one stamp-loving bum, and pits them against each other to lay hands on a dead guy's multimillion-dollar stamp collection. The narrative and certain minor aspects of its presentation have flaws, but they don't matter much. What matters is the way actors Bill Schwartz, Israel Garcia, Michael McKeever, and Michaela Cronan turn up the heat as their characters grow more desperate to get those stamps, and how the energy level in the auditorium mounts as the play progresses. A scene involving Cronan, Garcia, and Schwartz haggling over the collection is one of the most perfectly executed and emotionally fraught moments you'll see rendered onstage.

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At Home at the Zoo

Through June 14 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-514-4042; palmbeachdramaworks.org

Zoo Story made Edward Albee famous in 1959. It was a classic, but you'll never see it again. In its place is At Home at the Zoo, which contains the original Zoo Story as its second act. Next to the calm and achingly tender first act — which follows an afternoon in the torpid but loving marriage of Peter, a staid publisher, and his wife, Ann — the second, which takes place later that afternoon, looks like the blast of unfocused youthful anger that it always was. The wisdom and kindness of Albee's old age shape and give context to that anger: Every character here is human, good and bad, and full of complexities and contradictions only dimly hinted at in 1959. At Palm Beach Dramaworks, the roles are brought to life by three capable actors, two of whom turn in bravura performances that folks will be talking about for months. As the drifter who accosts Peter in Act II, Todd Allen Durkin exudes a febrile charisma that could turn you on or scare your pants off. And as Ann, Margery Lowe shows a warmth, subtlety, and restraint you never knew she had.

 
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