They were proof of Miami's status as the Latin-music capital of the world. They were an engine of economic growth. They were a sign of our slowly developing political tolerance. They were a plot to thrust subversive Cuban musicians into our midst. They were the pride and joy of Emilio Estefan, Jr. They were the downfall of exile extremists. They were a glamorous, gaudy, God-awful fuss. But most of all, they were gone. Poof! Somewhere in Southern California, then-Grammys honcho Michael Greene is still smiling at his sleight-of-hand.
And the winner is.... Once again the award goes to Adler for his range of work and the professionalism with which it is produced. From gritty naturalism in the creepy and mind-bending Boy Gets Girl to lyrical musical drama in The Dead to the brilliant absurdism of Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby, Adler moves all over the stylistic map and handles each stop with assurance. His direction is marked by clarity, energy, and a palpable love for the actor's craft. It's no coincidence that many actors shine in his productions. Until someone else manages all this in one season, the crown remains firmly planted.

BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI DURING THE SUMMER

Mo' curls

Sure, the heat and humidity is a killer. But just look at those soft curls you've developed, the streaks of gold in your hair, the silky texture. Who needs a high-priced salon when you can get touched up by the sun? Think of it as deep-heat conditioning for free. Indeed the only folks who don't have a reason to stay in Miami for the summer are, well, the high-priced stylists.
On a metaphorical sea four rafters (a soldier, an explorer, a priest, and an archetypal female) became more than refugees -- they grew into symbols of rebirth and redemption in Teatro Avante's rendition of Colombian playwright José Assad's Cenizas Sobre el Mar (Ashes on the Sea). An enigmatic elixir of magical realism and theater of the absurd, the play, written by Assad in 1989 to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of the so-called discovery of America, concerned four rafters who have been adrift at sea for 100 years. They are symbols of Latin America as a continent of people uprooted, at war, searching, creating and re-creating identities. The key to the play's success? The trinity of theater's most fundamental elements: script, set, and performance. Assad's wonderfully poetic text worked like waves, using the ebb and flow of fixed refrains to give it cohesiveness. Ingeniously, set designer Leandro Soto, an accomplished Cuban visual artist himself, wove together shells, rags, and rope in a circle on the floor, making the raft a blank canvas rather than the site for a real voyage. The actors managed to shape-shift yet remain recognizable. They were at once thumb-sucking and ornery children, raving madmen, soldiers, travelers, and lovers. Cenizas Sobre el Mar revived and reinvigorated the age-old symbol of the sea as the universal metaphor for life, travel, birth, passage, and death. We were lucky to have it wash up on our shores.

Who's afraid of putting on Edward Albee? Not GableStage. And this production of the playwright's mind-bending verbal labyrinth was a dizzying, enigmatic tour de force. Strong all around, from Joseph Adler's crisp staging through the tight and engrossing performances (including some nifty work from John Felix and Cynthia Caquelin). Add to the mix the excellent work of Jeff Quinn, Daniela Schwimmer, and Nat Rauch -- for sets/lighting, costumes, and sound respectively -- and what you get is hard to beat, even if it were competing in a theatrical capital.
The best new building won't be there much longer. It will be taken down not because it is an historic landmark no one cared about but because it wasn't meant to last. But while it stands, it's incredible to behold. Artist George Sanchez decided to create a model of the famous 1929 Le Corbusier house in France, an exquisite example of modernist architecture, and put it up underneath the I-395 underpass off NW Thirteenth Street. That's right -- Overtown at its most blighted decrepitude. It sits clean and sleek -- at night it glows -- amid the concrete and filth of Miami's neglected urban core. Sanchez called it "The Blessing." Maybe that's what the city will need to follow the artist's path and create permanent beauty and hope in an area too long without it.

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
Photo by Andrew Meade
This place is known for its amazing Saturday and Sunday dim sum brunches, in which customers choose from authentic comestibles presented on rolling carts. And it is precisely this movable feast that makes Tropical a great venue for a debut date. For one thing, you can order as much or as little as you want, which means the date can last as long or short as you wish. Like her? Slowly sample all 56 dumplings, buns, rolls, and tarts. Less than thrilled with him? Over shrimp rice pasta, develop a sudden seafood allergy. Want to test his spirit of adventure? Grab an order of chicken feet or fried squid heads. Need to know if she's got a gag reflex? Serve her a sample of congee garnished with a thousand-year-old egg. Best of all, whatever the outcome of this encounter, dim sum ends at 3:30 p.m., which means you've got the rest of the day to, uh, fool around.
Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion Leonard has done what retired fighters just don't do. He's crossed over from the exploited to the exploiter. He has become a boxing promoter. But Leonard isn't much like the parasitic thugs who control professional pugilism. He says he wants to make boxing shows more competitive instead of producing snoozers staged to build up the records of contenders. In two programs so far this year at the American Airlines Arena, both televised on ESPN2, Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing delivered two IBA world-title fights, including Roy Jones, Jr.'s first-ever bout in Miami, and some quality undercard bouts. You can't give Leonard all the credit for raising the boxing profile in Miami. The first fight program at the AAA -- Don King's Felix Trinidad-Mamadou Thiam matchup in July 2000 -- sold out, and the regular televised shows at Miccosukee Indian Gaming aren't all bad. Some sportswriters are saying Miami is making a comeback as a major fight venue. And the presence of Leonard, who recently signed Miami-based Cuban star Diobelys Hurtado, is definitely a catalyst.
A recent Mendez client is serving a nineteen-year sentence in federal prison after a Miami jury convicted him of espionage, along with four other Cuban agents. But one must judge a lawyer by the principles for which he stands, even when they are misunderstood and unpopular. For Mendez one of them is the Fifth Amendment: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Numerous Cuban-American lawyers in Miami declined to defend those charged with spying for Cuba. And sure enough, once the trial began, fanatical anti-Castro radio commentators called Mendez a "scoundrel" for taking the job. In so doing they impugned not only Mendez but one of the most crucial of American judicial institutions, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Mendez's employer. The public defender provides counsel even to the most unseemly of characters, who are, under our system, still innocent until proven guilty. Beating an espionage rap, however, is almost impossible, and jurors were not about to forgive anyone who appeared to be snooping around U.S. military bases. Judge Joan Lenard slammed four of the defendants with the maximum penalties allowed, but Mendez managed to shave 11 years off the nearly 30-year sentence federal prosecutors had sought for his client.

At any given moment, in some time zone, a fashion show is under way. Don't believe us? Just click your cable remote to Fashion TV and observe 24 solid hours a day of runway shows, complete with strutting models, over-the-top haute couture, and bowing designers. The eye candy is equal-opportunity -- there's just as much beef- as cheesecake on display -- and the segments even get historical (ah, so that's what Versace's fall 1999 line looked like). Captured by video crews at events from downtown New York to downtown Moscow, shipped back to FTV's Miami Beach studio, and then beamed around the globe by more than 30 satellites, it's enough to make a fashionista's heart flutter. True, not everyone needs a steady diet of runway walkers. In that case just crank up your television's volume and discover one of our city's best unsung radio stations, spinning 24 uninterrupted hours of cutting-edge beats, down-tempo hip-hop, and a dash of underground rock and roll. (Check your local cable listings for Fashion TV's channel.)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®