Mixtape 2, Mad Cat Theatre's Film and Theater Showcase Offers Hard Hits and Easy Misses

Mad Cat Theatre's latest production lives up to its title, though perhaps not entirely as intended. Mixtape 2 is a presentation of several short film and theater works, and much like an audio mixtape inspired by situational events -- such as a breakup -- only certain "tracks" appeal to its intended audience.

Fortunately, Mad Cat doesn't give a damn whether each track hits home; rather, it uses this showcase to give playwrights and filmmakers room to explore their muse and experiment with their medium. Unfortunately, this leads to moments of self-indulgence from the artists -- and, sometimes, moments of ennui for the audience.

That's not to say all is lost when you take your seat. A Mad Cat production practically guarantees good, and more often great, performances -- even when the material the actors are working with isn't proportional to their talent.

Watching Theo Reyna, Erin Joy Schmidt, and Joe Kimble is a delight. Reyna, as Syd, infuses his lackluster character with panache. Each time Kimble is onstage is an epiphany. And Schmidt, whose acting scope is used in roles ranging from a nondescript white woman taking part in a very unusual focus group, to a shrill "satellite" stealing lovers' souls, owns each and every line. Schmidt is a powerhouse.

Worth mentioning are actors Troy Davidson and Carey Brianna Hart, who also gave stellar performances, albeit inconsistently. Davidson seems to shine when the role calls for some flair, such as his performance as a "deconstructionist" in Mad Cat's So My Grandmother Died, Blah, Blah, Blah from 2011, named best play that year by New Times. The same precise delivery is evident during Mixtape 2 when he takes on the role of a surreal voodoo priest cum hotel proprietor in artistic director Paul Tei's wacky and whimsical Wish You Were Here, but absent in more realistic characters such as the skateboarding graffiti artist who becomes a literal target for overzealous cops in Jessica Farr's Nadie.

Nadie, which features the convincing Kimble as a police officer, is one of Farr's two well-written pieces in Mixtape 2, but regrettably, it loses some if its potency because of an unintended faux pas. Nadie means "no one" or "nobody" in Spanish. The word is spoken by Davidson's character (an obvious and well-intended homage to Israel "Reefa" Hernandez, who died last year after Miami Beach Police officers shot him with a Taser), but unfortunately mispronounced. It's slightly off, an accent problem rather than a complete bastardization, but it nevertheless snaps any Spanish-speaking audience member out of the poignant, gritty scene that Farr has painted.

Although hit or miss, the plays in Mixtape 2 contain enough gems to keep the audience engaged. I wish the same could be said for the films. The worst of those were by the Wet Socks Ensemble, which parodies Miami Shores politics and infomercials in three short films, with what could only be called a Mad TV sensibility. Pulling up next to them was The Last Audition by Matt Corey and George Schiavone. Audition comes off like an inside joke that you're not in on, like a film made by friends for friends and therefore of no real interest to anyone else.

However, like all artistic endeavors, Mixtape 2 is an accomplishment simply because it exists. Many talented people came together to create two hours of no-holds-barred artistic expression, and anyone who has ever worked on any kind of creative production knows that is no small feat. In fact, the ensemble production is admirable.

If you go to the theater expecting a showstopper, this is not the show for you. But if you can appreciate honest work by artists willing to bare it all, Mixtape 2 does the trick.

Mixtape 2 is playing at the Miami Theater Center (9816 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores) now through January 19. Tickets cost $15 to $30. Visit madcattheatre.org or call 866-811-4111.

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