In the theater, sometimes everything just falls into place. That was definitely the case with GableStage's masterful presentation of The Goat. Featuring Edward Albee's bitterly funny script, a fine cast, exceptionally effective direction from artistic director Joseph Adler, and an outstanding set design by Rich Simone, this production was a gleeful blend of absurdity, horror, and dry humor that sent audiences' heads spinning.

Mario Diament's tale of five characters in search of one another proved to be a fascinating exploration of chance, fate, irrational obsession, and love at first sight. Delighting audiences at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, the tale involved a seemingly simple string of impromptu encounters and quiet conversations but was really a complex interweaving of characters and ideas that made for intriguing, intellectually challenging theater.

Alvin Malnik and son Shareef haven't been the subjects of a Hollywood film or tell-all book. But they should be. Al, an attorney, garnered notoriety for his long association with legendary Mob financier Meyer Lansky. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in denying Al a casino license in 1980, labeled him "a person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation [because he] associated with persons engaged in organized criminal activities, and that he himself participated in transactions that were clearly illegitimate and illegal." In some circles, that sort of publicity would be a career-killer, but it only served to make Al's the Forge restaurant (which he purchased in 1968 and lavishly refurbished) a wickedly seductive destination for generations of celebrities -- from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. (Jacko and 70-year-old Al are best buds.) His wealth wasn't solely the result of the Forge's success. Al has also reaped riches as owner of Title Loans of America, an operation that has been called "legalized loan-sharking" for its practice of lending money at usurious rates to people whose only collateral is their car (hence the "title" in the company name). In 1991 Al handed over the Forge operations to son Mark, who by then had changed his name to Shareef and had satisfied his wild-side urge to race off-shore power boats and Le Mans Series Porches. The younger Malnik profitably reinvented the restaurant as a hip destination for the jet set who, in the early Nineties, began favoring Miami Beach as an international playground. In the process, though, he managed to maintain the Forge's decadent and vaguely illicit ambiance. His good looks and trademark Lothario mustache have made him one of the most recognizable faces on South Beach, and have landed him a few acting roles as well (Just Cause, The Blackout, Coffee and Tobacco). Shareef, once married to Saudi princess Sheika Hoda Al-Fassi, recently split from wife number four. How's that for a father-son team?

Alvin Malnik and son Shareef haven't been the subjects of a Hollywood film or tell-all book. But they should be. Al, an attorney, garnered notoriety for his long association with legendary Mob financier Meyer Lansky. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in denying Al a casino license in 1980, labeled him "a person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation [because he] associated with persons engaged in organized criminal activities, and that he himself participated in transactions that were clearly illegitimate and illegal." In some circles, that sort of publicity would be a career-killer, but it only served to make Al's the Forge restaurant (which he purchased in 1968 and lavishly refurbished) a wickedly seductive destination for generations of celebrities -- from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. (Jacko and 70-year-old Al are best buds.) His wealth wasn't solely the result of the Forge's success. Al has also reaped riches as owner of Title Loans of America, an operation that has been called "legalized loan-sharking" for its practice of lending money at usurious rates to people whose only collateral is their car (hence the "title" in the company name). In 1991 Al handed over the Forge operations to son Mark, who by then had changed his name to Shareef and had satisfied his wild-side urge to race off-shore power boats and Le Mans Series Porches. The younger Malnik profitably reinvented the restaurant as a hip destination for the jet set who, in the early Nineties, began favoring Miami Beach as an international playground. In the process, though, he managed to maintain the Forge's decadent and vaguely illicit ambiance. His good looks and trademark Lothario mustache have made him one of the most recognizable faces on South Beach, and have landed him a few acting roles as well (Just Cause, The Blackout, Coffee and Tobacco). Shareef, once married to Saudi princess Sheika Hoda Al-Fassi, recently split from wife number four. How's that for a father-son team?

Battered, bruised, but far from beaten, Merrett Stierheim in June will relinquish his position as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. When he took the $210,000 job in 2001, Stierheim set out to do what he does best: reform a public agency plagued by low morale, bureaucratic ineptitude, rampant cronyism, and outright corruption. He has succeeded on some fronts; for example, hiring the district's first inspector general and exposing the blatantly political nature of career advancement. But Stierheim was only able to scratch the surface of the deeply entrenched problems that cripple the nation's fourth-largest school district. In the months preceding his announcement that he would be stepping down, Stierheim found himself under constant attack: The teachers' union bashed him during contract negotiations; he clashed with the state oversight board that controlled tens of millions of dollars in school-construction money; and small-minded, short-sighted board members never stopped harassing him. But even as he prepares to depart, Stierheim's enemies are on their toes. The veteran bureaucrat is contemplating the unthinkable: running for a seat on the school board. "I care about the school district a lot," he says, "but do I really want to do something political when I've been apolitical all my professional life?"

Battered, bruised, but far from beaten, Merrett Stierheim in June will relinquish his position as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. When he took the $210,000 job in 2001, Stierheim set out to do what he does best: reform a public agency plagued by low morale, bureaucratic ineptitude, rampant cronyism, and outright corruption. He has succeeded on some fronts; for example, hiring the district's first inspector general and exposing the blatantly political nature of career advancement. But Stierheim was only able to scratch the surface of the deeply entrenched problems that cripple the nation's fourth-largest school district. In the months preceding his announcement that he would be stepping down, Stierheim found himself under constant attack: The teachers' union bashed him during contract negotiations; he clashed with the state oversight board that controlled tens of millions of dollars in school-construction money; and small-minded, short-sighted board members never stopped harassing him. But even as he prepares to depart, Stierheim's enemies are on their toes. The veteran bureaucrat is contemplating the unthinkable: running for a seat on the school board. "I care about the school district a lot," he says, "but do I really want to do something political when I've been apolitical all my professional life?"

The ebullient, outspoken Adler might seem a complete mismatch with tart, taciturn Edward Albee (author of The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?). Nonetheless Adler's masterful staging of Albee's provocative tragicomedy at GableStage was a perfect meeting of master minds. Adler is well known for his gutsy, go-for-broke style, but his work with The Goat was particularly risky and insightful, put together with such skill that many of his roll-the-dice choices looked as if he were using loaded bones to make point every toss.

Sure, the feng-shui foyer of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is fabulous, and the Bacardi compound is breathtaking, but county hall, anarchy's atrium, puts the public in public space. Here you can catch Metrorail, the Metromover, link to the bus system, buy El Horoscopo at a news shop, view larger-than-life-size flags from all 50 states, attend and be amused by a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, munch on a Cinnabon. Though the hegemony of city, county, state, and federal government slouches all around, county hall, with its main gallery launching from the second floor, turns its face to the sky. Floor-to-high-ceiling windows provide a view to the weather on the sides not obscured by the elevated tracks of the Metrorail. The best thing about our government center is its devotion to functionality and lack of pretense -- anyone can go there, no velvet ropes block access, and watching the cycle of the day trundle along is free. And open to the public. In fact, the place is owned by the public.

Stephen P. Clark Government Center
Sure, the feng-shui foyer of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is fabulous, and the Bacardi compound is breathtaking, but county hall, anarchy's atrium, puts the public in public space. Here you can catch Metrorail, the Metromover, link to the bus system, buy El Horoscopo at a news shop, view larger-than-life-size flags from all 50 states, attend and be amused by a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, munch on a Cinnabon. Though the hegemony of city, county, state, and federal government slouches all around, county hall, with its main gallery launching from the second floor, turns its face to the sky. Floor-to-high-ceiling windows provide a view to the weather on the sides not obscured by the elevated tracks of the Metrorail. The best thing about our government center is its devotion to functionality and lack of pretense -- anyone can go there, no velvet ropes block access, and watching the cycle of the day trundle along is free. And open to the public. In fact, the place is owned by the public.

He's big, strong, a double-double rock of muscle and hustle in the center of the Miami Heat's tenacious defense. He has a soft touch on his jumper and adds a dimension of assets that can't be measured by stats. The iron man (with the forgivable iron hands) can even fish fairly well, his favorite off-season hobby. But it's those natty dreads (with a Bob Marley tattoo for emphasis) which remind all that the NBA presses on with a Quaker's sense of individuality. His hairstyle grabs attention the way he grabs rebounds, to the point that the Heat sells Brian Grant dreadlock headbands so that everyone who's six-nine, built like a mountain, and one of the most reliable players in the NBA can be just like him. Sort of.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®