This past season, every time a set caught the eye as aesthetically pleasing or clever, it was inevitably one of Rich Simone's creations. Simone's sets always seem to help bridge the gap between the audience and the actors, using the stage not only as a meeting point but also as a point of departure. Most recently his specialty seemed to be setting the mood for licentiousness, adultery, and other forms of sexual high jinks, as he did in Miracle Theatre's Things We Do for Love, and GableStage's The Real Thing. In Things We Do for Love Simone created a three-story home perfect for the bawdy upstairs/downstairs humor that British playwright Alan Ayckbourn had in mind when he wrote this farce about a nympho, a soon-to-be spinster, a drunkard, and a vegetarian. Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing had a more sophisticated design (clean lines and streamlined contemporary furnishings) for this more erudite group of lovers (also British, come to think of it). Simone cleverly made use of upstage space to depict the playwright's play within a play.
It was a harrowing fall. Before: Helps lead a successful zoning fight to keep denser housing out of suburban Hialeah Gardens. Touted as first Latina mayor in the United States when elected in 1989. Divorces Angel Ramos, loses seat in 1993, marries Angel Ramos again, becomes mayor again in 1995. Wears miniskirts with blazers.

After: Swept up in storm of anonymous letters accusing her of lascivious, corrupt acts at city hall. Jailed in June 2000 on charges she conspired to kill her ex-husband in order to collect $45,000 in insurance money. Also charged with voter fraud. Convicted a month later and sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Gov. Jeb Bush removes her from office. Touted as Women's Detention Center inmate No. 0053063. Released on $100,000 bond pending appeal. Denies wearing miniskirts with blazers. Former city employees file a harassment lawsuit against her for lewd and lascivious remarks.

The Music Lesson dismantled the myth that good drama must arise from a dramatic situation. A couple of musicians, Irena and Ivan, take refuge in Pittsburgh from war-torn Sarajevo and end up giving music lessons to American children from a broken family. What made this drama exceptional was the acting. The alienation and suffering these individuals felt moved through the audience like slow ether, emanating from their simplest gestures. In fact the play is a gestural masterpiece. All the action centers around an invisible piano. More than a metaphor, classical music becomes a tangible character, so that The Music Lesson is not just another account of human tragedy desensitized by a flood of overt emotion and sentimentality. It is a moving account of people trying to rebuild their lives. The Music Lesson featured Maggi St. Clair Melin, Jessica K. Peterson, Joris Stuyck, Elizabeth Dimon, Amy Love, Ashton Lee, Craig D. Ames, Eddi Shraybman, and Ethel Yari.

An actor's success in a dramatic role can fall into one of two categories: the ability to make the unbelievable believable, and the ability to make the believable unbelievably incredible. Bridget Connors managed to do both in her role as a young Jewish woman dying of a terminal illness. That's the believable part. Rachel's plight easily could have been a case study in Harold S. Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. She expressed all the predictable emotions and asked all the right metaphysical questions. The not-so-believable part is the conversion experience she had, which was facilitated by her sister, a devout member of the Christian Science faith. Believable or unbelievable, Connors brought something magical to the role from the moment she stepped onstage. Her ability to be simultaneously earthy and ethereal left theatergoers feeling as though they were seeing a tragedy for the first time.

This tiny, bucolic slice of South Florida, incorporated as a city in 1937 and sandwiched between the cities of Miami and Miami Shores west of Biscayne Boulevard at NE 86th Street, almost feels like a hippie commune in Vermont. Dogs roam freely, people actually sit on their porches. But the lush subtropical foliage (a sanctuary for birds, according to a sign greeting visitors at 86th Street) brings you back to Miami. Something else unique to South Florida that connects this charming village to the past: Along the edge of the Little River canal, on NE Fourth Avenue Road, you'll find a Tequesta Indian habitation mound. A tablet erected in 1949 in honor of the natives marks the spot. Directly in front of it is a grassy patch of land overflowing with plants and trees for all to enjoy. But it's the neighborhood's ungentrified feel and a varied and colorful array of residential architectural styles -- from English Tudor to Spanish Mediterranean -- that give this city of 2000 residents its real charm.

Thanks to the work of Barbara Stein, this 54-year-old landmark is in the final phase of a seven-million-dollar renovation that will return the Miracle Theatre to its former glory. For Stein this has been a labor of love since 1995. Along with her husband, Stein founded the Actors' Playhouse theater company in Kendall thirteen years ago but eventually relocated to Coral Gables and the Miracle Theatre. In addition to her dedication, the key to this project has been Stein's ability to persuade local companies to donate their time and services to the restoration effort. While preserving the historic nature of the building, the theater is being divided into three parts. The main theater seats 600 people; on the second floor a special children's theater, called the Balcony, can hold as many as 300 tykes and their parents. There also are plans for a more intimate black-box stage setting, which will cater to audiences of between 75 and 100.
Broadcasting sports news to Cuba exclusively, which is Edemio Nava's job description, has to be a uniquely challenging task. Radio Martí's mission as a U.S. government station is to provide the people of Cuba with unbiased information not available to them in the state-controlled media. Often that information is about Cuban sports heroes who once were celebrated in the media but now are ignored because they defected. Yet they remain heroes on the island. Thus Nava works in a peculiarly two-faced world, bringing news to the island about figures who officially no longer exist in their own nation. He is well qualified for this unique job, having a broad familiarity with sports and sports heroes both inside and outside the island.
Baby Huey became the poster child for the Clinton pardon scandal when it was revealed he had received more than $400,000 to work on a pair of clemency petitions, both of which ultimately succeeded. A former public defender, Rodham seemed to spend all eight years of the Clinton administration trying to find ways to cash in on being the First Lady's brother. He ran a laughable campaign for the United States Senate in 1994 and later attempted to become a captain of industry by cornering the hazelnut market through contacts in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. That last venture caused all sorts of problems for the U.S. State Department. But if his prior attempts to exploit his family name were oafish, his profiteering in the pardon scandal was downright obscene, and proved to be a major embarrassment not only for former President Clinton but also for Rodham's sister, Hillary, the newly elected senator for New York, who ordered her brother to return all the money. Perhaps most embarrassing were the television images of Rodham in the days after the scandal broke. He refused to speak to the media, so news footage frequently showed him running back and forth from his car to his house wearing flip-flops, baggy shorts, and a T-shirt that was just a little too tight for his globular frame. Not a pretty picture.

Very early on in The Devil's Music, Miche Braden belted out a low blues note to let everyone know this woman is not just an actress; she's also a phenomenal singer. But Braden's acting was the real prize. The range of her characterization was sassy, wise, bitter, and flirtatious. She was inexhaustible, singing thirteen gut-wrenching tunes in 90 minutes with no intermissions or scene changes. Her stamina and heartbreaking blues lent so many dimensions to the character of Bessie Smith, giving her the stage presence of a diva and the theatricality of a broken woman. As rare as it is to find a talented actress who also happens to have a voice like Bessie Smith's, Braden's exceptional performance proves it is possible.

It can be a little difficult to tell if the men indeed are single, since sitting in saunas and baths is an easy excuse to take off that ring. And a certain percentage are going to be tourists, seeing as how this is in a hotel. But a surprising variety of employed, respectable men make their way to Miami's most soporific hot spot on any given evening (days are not recommended as employed, respectable nontourists should not be lounging). The age and ethnic range also is desirable -- all over the place, that is. But what makes the baths a particularly conducive meeting ground? Well, having no choice but to sit side by side in one of the many overheated rooms or the Jacuzzi has a way of forcing conversation. "It wasn't this hot last time I visited." "Oh, do you come here often?" That kind of thing. But more serious talk can, and sometimes does, follow. How ecotourism is a mixed blessing for Ecuador; which hotels are the best bang for your buck in Moscow; what the best waterways are for boating in Miami. The high temperatures have a way of loosening more than leg muscles, and often attitude gets checked at the door as stress and shyness dissipate into the humid air. If you need more loosening, there are white Russians (the drink) in the café. Open every day, noon till midnight. All days are coed.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®