American Buffalo: It's all about a nickel, about a heist gone wrong. Three losers congregated in a Chicago junk shop plot to steal a Buffalo nickel that's allegedly worth a lot of money. One of them says it's business, it's about "common sense, experience, and talent." The play's central irony is that the slimeball, the thief, and the junkie whose business this is lack such qualities. That they are but a reflection of what transpires on the lower slopes of capitalism, however, is what makes David Mamet's 1975 play as timeless as the myth of the American dream. That timelessness is far from obvious in the Alliance Theatre Lab's intermittently effective production, directed with the best of intentions by Adalberto J. Acevedo. But American Buffalo is also an exercise in acting. And at least one member of the cast, the promising Nick Velkov, is worth watching: The man is scary. -- Octavio Roca Through October 2. Alliance Theatre Lab at the Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes; 305-460-3242.
Madagascar: In a hotel room overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome, a lovely young woman dressed in pajamas sits on a bed and proclaims there is no such thing as coincidence. An elegant older woman emerges from the shadows in a timeless faux Chanel suit. She's oblivious to the girl on the bed yet very much at home in the room and familiar with the loneliness implied therein. A third character, a man, eventually finds himself there too. His relationship to the two women or the two absent men in their lives is, at first, anything but clear. Only one thing is certain: Someone has disappeared, perhaps forever, perhaps having fled to an exotic place like Madagascar. We may never know, but the magic and mystery of J.T. Rogers's witty, literate new play will linger and fascinate long after the curtain falls. It's directed with a fine-tuned ear for subtle mood shifts and mercurial changes of speed by Ricky J. Martinez, and stars Kathryn Lee Johnston, Angie Radosh, and Bill Schwartz. -- Octavio Roca Through October 9. New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909.
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