The Loman Family Picnic: It's difficult to decide which moment is the most disturbing in this masterful production. Is it the opening, with a haggard housewife endlessly repeating her desperate mantra: "Ilovemylife, Ilovemylife, Ilovemylife"? Is it the end of the first act, as her equally panicked husband hunches alone in the light of a TV set, feverishly gobbling ice cream from a half-gallon container? Or is it the last, as their bewildered eleven-year-old son crouches in his upper bunk bed, listening in on his parents' bleak, hopeless dining-table conversation? All of these moments painfully and precisely portray a family in profound crisis. But Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies and director Michael Hall take the particulars and spin them into something even more unsettling. This Picnic, for all its comedic elements, evokes a deeply disturbing vision of American cultural meltdown. Hall's staging is visually compelling, beautifully paced, and deliciously unpredictable. Strong acting is backed with Tim Bennett's outstanding set design, a colorful but emotionally dead living space. Thomas Salzman's lighting design is equally effective, ranging from high-wattage sit-com-style lighting to decidedly sinister elements that create a subtle, harrowing sense of danger and isolation. -- Ronald Mangravite Through May 22. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-241-7432.
Touch: Kyle, a likable young man, sits at the edge of the stage and talks disarmingly to the audience. Most of all he talks about Zoe -- his first high school crush, the love of his life, the stuff of dreams, now a dream lost forever. What might have been a storybook romance of a bookish boy and a wild, kooky girl who brought him out of his shell has turned to absurd tragedy. One night, barely six years into their happy marriage, Zoe went to the store and never came back. Kyle's monologue is heartbreaking, even before we learn that Zoe was raped and murdered. It is an extended aria of grief at the heart of Touch, a tender and fascinating play by Toni Press-Coffman. If the rest of the play does not quite live up to the promise of its daring first half-hour, it remains a lovely pastiche of raw feelings; of deepest, inconsolable sorrow; and of finding solace in the arms of strangers. Particularly when Bruce Linser as Kyle is alone onstage, Touch really does touch the heart. -- Octavio Roca Through May 15. New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909.