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Miami's Best and Worst Theater in 2010

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Here are the best and worst plays of 2010. If you caught the good ones, congrats. You really saw something special. If you caught any of the bad ones, my condolences. Don't let it put you off the form. There's fabulous stuff out there.

This is my last year-end roundup. I am moving to New York City  with my spouse and writing partner, the journalist Penn Bullock. I'm sad to go. From seats in the gloom of South Florida theaters, I have seen and heard extraordinary things. Look for the full year-end theater roundup in the next issue. For now, read on for a glimpse at what worked on Miami stages and what didn't.

The Best


Never again will Florida see a production quite like Sarah Kane's

Blasted. It is expensive to produce, and those few companies with

the pocketbook to pull it off don't have the inclination. For Blasted is

bloody -- very bloody. The play begins with a rape, ends with the

cannibalism of dead babies, and there is little light in between. The beauty of Kane's script lies in how a girl's smallness and defenselessness enables her to survive in the brutal world imagined by the play. The beauty of GableStage's production lies in the dramatization of the world's brutality.


Oh, James Samuel Randolph, we could listen to you talk all day. Even if

all you've got to talk about are the weird psycho-sexual issues of a kid

who likes horses a little too much. So it was with Equus, Peter

Shaffer's haunting play about Alan Strang, a disturbed teenager whose

confused ideas about religion and his own libido drive

him to an act of terrible violence. On New

Theatre's small stage, Equus played as a surrealist festival of light

and shadow, full of barely-glimpsed leaping beasts, who seemed to have

freshly escaped from the walls at Lescaux.


What the hell happened to the Alliance Theatre Lab? Two years ago, they

were barely on the radar, and then - bam! Suddenly they're Miami's

coolest theater. Their best show this year was Orphans, a

strange and touching tale about two brothers who have had to scrounge for

themselves since the long-ago departure of their parents. It's a simple

show with a simple premise, but at Alliance, it was full of life and

wisdom. The spaces between the actors' performances were

full of need and listening. One felt they were reaching out to one

another across some vast darkness, nearly touching, and then falling


The Worst

Hour of The Tiger

New Theatre gave it a good shot, but Hour of The Tiger was

un-salvageable. Allegedly a love letter from playwright Sandra Riley to

the Japan she visited in the 70's, The Hour of the Tiger told the story

of a Japanese geisha's lesbian love affair with an American writer. In

the telling, Riley managed to screw up basic facts about geisha life

(they don't have pimps; they haven't worked as prostitutes for over a

hundred years; etc), and what Riley didn't mangle, New Theatre's stable

of under-experienced actors did.

Twelfth Night

Though the raw material was fine, the director had done some

neat editing, and it was framed with historically accurate English folk

tunes, the SoBe Arts Council's re-imagining of The Twelfth Night was

mostly abysmal. It also lacked basic consideration for the

comfort and aesthetic pleasure of the audience. An errant spotlight

shone directly onto a front-row seat, and an un-oiled hinge of an

off-stage door squealed angrily each time an actor prepared to make an

entrance. The small band of musicians off to the side of the stage were

obscured by a sloppily-hung black curtain. It should have been used to mask the glare of headlights from the rear exit of

the stage, which opened directly onto a busy South Beach street. SoBe

Arts may not have much of a budget, but these were not failures of

financing; they were failures of imagination.

The Color of Desire

Pulitzer Prize-winning Miamian Nilo Cruz may have jumped the shark with

The Color of Desire. What a pity! If Cruz had only subjected his work to

another re-write or two, and if only director David Arisco had allowed

The Color of Desire to be what is so clearly wanted to be: A symbolic,

highly figurative meditation on love, lust, and control set at the

violent apex of  the Cuban revolution. Instead, the play was produced as realism, which made the whole thing rather difficult

to believe. This is, after all, a play about a Cuban actress seduced by

an American entrepreneur, who demands that, in the bedroom, she play

the role of his long-lost love. The production presented these

characters as ordinary people, bleached of their darkness and mystery. A

more serious disconnect between script and director I have seldom seen.

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