House and Garden: Alan Ayckbourn's two comedies share one large cast of characters and myriad plot lines comprising failed marriages, adultery, and other romantic permutations. One play is set in an English country house, the other in the adjacent garden, and all must run in perfect synchronization: An exit in one show means an immediate entrance into the other. House's superior comedic plot is quite entertaining, but Garden's is rather soggy. Although performances range widely in caliber, Gary Marachek shines in his role as a philandering country squire. -- Ronald Mangravite Through June 5. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-444-9293.
Louie & Ophelia: Set in the late Seventies, M Ensemble's season finale exposes the tumultuous relationship between a middle-age man and a slightly younger mother of two, but lacks enough warmth and care to demonstrate they are indeed in love. Any weakness rests on the shoulders of the playwright, Gus Edwards, whose script runs the gamut of fight-causing topics (money, being a good role model, friends liking one person more than the other), but omits the loving components that keep this duo together. Loye Hawkins (Louie) and Carey Hart (Ophelia) keep things energetic and interesting, with Hart's trio of powerful breakdowns proving she is a truly talented actress. It's worth seeing if you're sensitive to the trials and tribulations of the heart and can handle the words I love you being taken for granted. -- Dan Hudak Through June 12. M Ensemble Actors Studio, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami; 305-895-0335.
The Pull of Negative Gravity: Few new plays are this important and this beautiful, and fewer still are done this well. Much can be said about Jonathan Lichtenstein's heartbreaking tale of a Welsh family destroyed by the war in Iraq, a play directed with pitch-perfect assurance by Richard Jay Simon. The first thing to note is it's great theater, pure and simple. Nightmarish in subject, it is an actor's dream play, and Simon's cast is sterling: Michael Baugh, Elizabeth Dimon, Todd Allen Durkin, and Claire Tyler all give performances as naked as they are brave. Scene after harrowing scene tells the intimate story of these shattered lives and successfully portrays the enduring horror of war and the utter surprise of that horror as it is lived out by one family. No one could be ready for this; no one should be. Without once actually taking sides on the catastrophe in Iraq -- without bringing up politics at all -- this work manages to portray with angry clarity the brutal, ineffably sad reality of lives destroyed by a war that is as bogus as it is cruel. -- Octavio Roca Through June 5. Mosaic Theatre, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation; 954-577-8243.