Betty's Summer Vacation: To playwright Christopher Durang, hell is psycho roommates screwing up your seaside holiday. That's the freakish situation in Betty's Summer Vacation, a comedy of menace that is receiving a first-rate staging from Miami's Mad Cat Theatre Company. The tedious script, featuring rape, murder, and genital mutilation, is intended as a critique of the moral depravity of popular culture. It has been overpraised (it won an Obie, among several other awards), but the production is so fiery and funny that most Mad Cat fans won't care. -- Ronald Mangravite Through August 14. Miami Light Project, 3000 Biscayne Blvd. 305-576-4350.
King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream: The New Theatre's annual Shakespeare fest is played in true repertory, with King Lear, the Bard's greatest tragedy, alternating nightly with A Midsummer Night's Dream, that popular comedy of lunacy, love, and poetry. Director Rafael de Acha and his superior design team deliver two visually striking productions, but while the journeyman acting company is competent, few individual performances soar. Lear is given a formal, stark staging that's powerful if not emotionally stirring. Dream has an interesting East Indian look with the battling faerie king and queen -- Oberon and Titania -- presented as dancing dervishes, but the show's comic antics are more amusing than flat-out funny. -- Ronald Mangravite Through August 22. New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. 305-443-5909.
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Take Me Out: This Tony Award-winning drama takes on an ambitious range of subjects -- homophobia, tolerance, and the lure of baseball being chief among them. The play offers two stories. One is a dark drama about a major-league slugger who is revealed to be gay, pitting him against a bigoted teammate. The other plot is a comedy, as the slugger befriends a gay accountant who is thrilled to discover the joys of the sport. The Caldwell's visually striking production features a fine acting ensemble, but both the story and the staging feel somewhat flat. The overall effect is somewhat less than might be hoped for. -- Ronald Mangravite Through August 15. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. 561-241-7432.
The Water Coolers: Looking for a little something to while away a hot summer night? This refreshing, fast-paced musical revue about life in the corporate world is graced with an exceptionally gifted cast and stylish, inventive staging from Playhouse director David Arisco and his choreographer Barbara Flaten. Cole Porter it's not (the jokes and the music are rather bland), but the show's upbeat charm and five terrific performers make for a sparkling entertainment that goes down as cool and easy as a summer cocktail. -- Ronald Mangravite Through September 5. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-9293 or www.actorsplayhouse.org