Day of Reckoning: The sad and seamy underbelly of the mythical American dream is not a place of hope, though this production makes a scattered attempt at embracing quite a bit of America's historical landscape: Ku Klux Klan rallies, slavery and its aftermath, burning crosses, forbidden love, shameless hate, interracial relations, voting rights, workers' rights, bloody labor struggles. If all of this sounds like too much, it is. Melody Cooper's historical drama treads on a minefield of issues, with lackluster results. Yet Ricky J. Martinez's fearless direction and a cast headed by Tara Vodihn and Keith Cassidy come close to making a case for Cooper's sprawling mess of a play. Octavio Roca Through March 26. New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909, www.new-theatre.org.
Educating Rita: With this tale of upper-crust English professor Frank mentoring lower-class literary wannabe Rita, Dramaworks' director Nanique Gheridian sends us into a supposedly well-recognized Pygmalion paradigm. But for those of us who shied away from seeing the 1983 Michael Caine film version of the play, it is not as My Fair Lady-like as you might think. It's really more of a coming-of-age love story about literature than a tale of social-class-hopping. As Rita, Claire Tyler abounds with an energy that fills her character with life. In the role of the jaded professor, Dan Leonard plays off of Tyler with skill and confidence. This is Tyler's show, though, and she takes control. But a true lesson from Educating Rita is this: If you're brave, you'll find the good books regardless of the obstacles, with or without wood paneling and stuffy mentors. Dave Amber Through April 9. Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-514-4042, www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.
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The Full Monty: The first thing people want to know about this show is not if it's any good, but if the male performers actually bare their tackle. The answer is yes. This Broadway musical is based on the 1997 UK film of the same name. And for anyone unfamiliar with British slang, the full monty literally means the whole amount. In the context of this play, the phrase describes the antics of six average-looking men who cast off their unmentionables. Although the story begins and ends with a strip tease, The Full Monty deals with more than bare-chested hip-thrusting. The plot may be contrived losers turn to amateur stripping and win the heart of a town and predictable, but Terence McNally's book equates to a spunky and light-hearted piece of theater. Joanne Green Through April 9. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-444-9293, www.actorsplayhouse.org.