Miami theater this week: Summer Shorts, good vibrations, desire, and love

Summer Shorts

By various authors. Through June 26 at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; Tickets cost $45.

This year's Summer Shorts called for something spicier, hipper, and more provocative in a series of seven short plays performed back-to-back at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater. And it looks like City Theatre found its man in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy star Jai Rodriguez. Among the diverse and assorted shorts that will feature him are Chronicle Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, a play about a gang war set on the playground; Aboard the Guy V. Molinari, where two ship passengers thrown overboard unexpectedly find their port in a storm; and Mickey Herman Saves the *%#@^* Universe, a manga-like comedy about a broken-hearted gamer who wagers the fate of the planet against alien invaders. One of the more serious plays is Israel Horovitz's thought-provoking What Strong Fences Make, an emotionally charged drama about two friends who clash at an Israeli checkpoint. "There are funny plays, and there are plays that are going to make people cry." Rodriguez says. "So there really is something for everyone."

In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)

By Sarah Ruhl. Through June 12 at GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1119; Tickets cost $37.50 to $47.50.

Set in the 1880s, In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) is the new comedy by Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl. The story takes place during the advent of electricity, when Doctor Givings treats female patients for their supposed hysteria with a new, electric-powered contraption. But the device unexpectedly produces different results. Soon the doctor receives a new patient, Mrs. Daldry. Although sexually frustrated and stuck in a marriage where she endures her husband's clunky, missionary-position-only lovemaking, she too is diagnosed with "hysteria" and is brought to the good doctor's parlor for therapy sessions. At its heart, this smart and stimulating comedy explores the mistreatment of women in the late 19th Century (the vibrator therapy sessions are based on documented cases) and how men of the era subjugated women to their uninformed and dubious methods while ignoring the obvious. Insightful and witty, In the Next Room is an engaging exploration of men' cluelessness and women's sexual liberation.

A Streetcar Named Desire

By Tennessee Williams. Through June 12 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables; 305-443-5909; Tickets cost $35 to $40.

Directed by Ricky Martinez, New Theatre stages Tennessee Williams's modern classic about the sexually charged enmity between Stanley Kowalski and his sister-in-law, fading beauty Blanche DuBois. Blanche moves in with sister Stella and her brutish husband in their working-class New Orleans home and begins to unravel as Stanley digs up her past while breaking down her Southern belle pretensions. Soon all of Blanche's secrets —from a forbidden marriage to a tragic love affair with a younger man —are brought to the surface, even as she puts on the air of a trouble-free spirit. Stanley and Blanche are destined for a showdown where the strong devours the weak, with Stella caught in the middle while she overlooks Stanley's terrible flaws because of her insatiable lust for her husband. Filled with primal sexual tension, tragic turns, and layered symbolism, A Streetcar Named Desire is a landmark all-time classic.

Fool for Love

By Sam Shepard. Through June 26 at Alliance Theatre Lab, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes; 305-259-0418; Tickets cost $25 ($15 for students and seniors).

Sam Shepard's mythic play Fool for Love is set in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert and tells the story of Eddie and May, two young lovers who also happen to be half-siblings. Eddie is a rough-spoken rodeo performer; May is a disheveled girl looking for stability. They battle over Eddie's frequent disappearing acts, his numerous love affairs, and their on-again/off-again dysfunctional but all-too-ardent relationship. At times their squabbles become physically violent. All the while, the ghost of their dead father watches over them, swigging a bottle of whiskey while commenting on what he sees unfolding. It's a haunting tale of crazy love, desperation, and the powerlessness of inflamed passion.

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Chris Joseph