If Calle Ocho is the undisputed heart of Cuban America, then Flagler Street is the lesser-known capital of just about every other Spanish-speaking group in Miami, especially Central Americans. The mile-long length of Flagler west of the river is jam-packed with niche groceries, discount shoe stores, and food — ah, the food! In that short mile are dozens upon dozens of restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries, and truly awesome Nicaraguan fritanga. Flagler isn't a pretty street, but it's a busy one — the true center of Miami in more ways than one.
There was a handful of productions this year that will stick in audience's memories for a long time, but Three Angels is probably the only one that will have those audiences doubting their memories. Scant days after the fact, it already felt like a dream: the kinky Catholic-voodoo-gothic rituals that sandwiched the scenes; the brutal speed of the monologues; the unearthly poetry of the writing; the unholy passion it inspired in the cast; the purely holy passion with which the actors endowed exiled Iranian writer Assurbanipal Babilla's ugliest, most fevered musings not with dignity, but something dirtier and infinitely more pitiable. After the cast received its standing O's, people milled around, wanting to talk about what they'd seen but not sure what to say. Given a dozen or so weeks to think about it, they might have come up with something like this: By showing us three people who've moved beyond desperation into utter, predatory insanity, and by giving their voices a chance to be heard, Square Peg made it apparent that even monsters can be human. The unavoidable subtext was that if monsters are human, the rest of us must be, too.
You could go to the beach, or maybe some crappy old park. But if you're an urban romantic, try the Rainforest Lounge. Laid out by renowned landscape architect Enzo Enea as a Design District showpiece for Art Basel Miami Beach two years ago, this little oasis is unmatched. Like a giant jewel box, it has funky, copper-color perforated metal walls around it, and flowering bushes and towering bamboo inside. Plenty of cushioned couches and tall stools with tables make brown-bagging it not only serene but easy. And to make things even better, it's next door to the historic Moore Building and in the heart of the Design District.
Unity on the Bay's music ministry says its mission is to "heal, enlighten, and minister through music in order to inspire and transform our world." A very pious aim to be sure, but don't expect Gregorian chants with a hymn or two thrown in on holidays. Unity's choir members tithe ten hours a week to make Sunday church-going a joyous musical experience. That means gospel, but it also means R&B, hip-hop, and jazz — everything from Destiny's Child to U2 to Andrea Bocelli. The choir's repertoire is as diverse as the congregation it sings to, and hallelujahs come as easily as hellos.
Miami has been criticized of late for being a city of the very poor and the very rich, where the middle-class has been squeezed out into the suburbs, or even to faraway North Carolina. There's something to this. A drive up Biscayne Boulevard reveals a Miami of the wealthy (wine shops, designer clothing stores, a car wash named Karma) and the poor (tired-looking liquor stores, hookers). But nowhere is the clash of classes more evident than between NE 69th and 70th streets, where diners at trendy Michy's sup on Turks and Caicos conch fillets (escargots style), while next door, down-on-their-luck folks live at the Saturn Motel for weeks on end. The two establishments are separated by an alley, yet they are worlds apart. For $65 you can sample a few tasty plates at Michy's (or get one bottle of wine) — or for the same money go next door and rent a room. Michy's was mentioned in Gourmet last year as one of the nation's top restaurants. The Saturn has a walk-up registration window with bulletproof glass.
The set of Neil LaBute's tale of aborted love between a sweet fat chick and a not-so-sweet skinny guy was lovingly, elegantly, exactingly, and simply rendered by Lyle Baskin, a designer who regularly sends GableStage's brilliant shows rocketing to the next level of awesomeness. Fat Pig was a brutal, heartless story — one of the play's four characters had the soul of a poet, and she was endlessly shat upon by the other three, all of whom had approximately the soul of a moldering potato — and its cruelty was suggested, not by drab colors and an absence of stuff, but by a preternatural stillness. The opening scene's supposedly bustling cafeteria had the feel of a Chuck E. Cheese in the wake of a plague; the final scene's beachside setting looked and sounded like the beach, but somehow communicated "desert." Scenes set in a sushi bar and an office suggested cheerful surfaces and spiritual death, a hollow classiness created by an intelligence driven to make everything pleasant and nothing personal. One look at Baskin's set, pretty and functional and chilling, might tell you more about Neil LaBute than Neil LaBute could tell you about himself.
Miami's weirdness is difficult to wrap your head around. There's the part born out of poverty and hardship and there's also the share that comes with way too much money. The town has both, for sure, but it's mapped in such a way that you rarely get to sink your teeth into both at the same time (unless you're on Biscayne, see above.) After all, how many places in the city aren't one or the otherçThank God for Metromover. Every day its little Jetsonian tram cars trap the crazy homeless guy on his mission to Mars right next to the umbrella-wielding lawyer commuting from his Brickell Key condo. The resultç Hi-larity. Wheel your way between the skeletal condo projects and rub elbows with the guys building them. Snicker as South American diplomats clap local flaks on the back, congratulating them on the fine money pit. Wait, with bated breath, for the whole thing to simply break down (it often does) and watch your fellow passengers devise a harrowing escape plan along the tracks (instead of waiting twenty minutes for it to start working again). The best part about this grand opera of human absurdityç You ride for free ... well, unless you count the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been blown on building and maintaining it.
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Justin Namon
Two giants of twentieth-century opera launching a new star for the 21st: That is just part of what happened in this new production that celebrated — and made — Miami music history. The first collaboration between the great Renata Scotto and Richard Bonynge, this local staging of Bellini's La Sonnambula was a demanding and gorgeous romantic opera. Starring Miami's favorite young diva, Leah Partridge, in a role she seemed born to sing, La Sonnambula was opera heaven, a thrilling and impossibly beautiful show for newcomers and jaded operamaniacs alike. One of the sweetest things about it was that, like the the American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake, the opera was the kind of production that could not have happened in Miami before the Carnival Center's opening. The Florida Grand Opera, one of the prime movers behind getting the center built in the first place, deserves this new Ziff Opera House, with its ideal acoustics and against-all-odds intimate atmosphere. What's the big deal about operaç The Florida Grand Opera, when it is this good, is a good answer.
New York's Susanne Bartsch is not your run-of-the-mill party promoter. Who else would conceive, let alone execute, a plan in which America's most infamous transsexual, Amanda Lepore, perches naked in a bubble bath in the middle of a crowded dance floor (at the swanky Setai, nonetheless, notorious for charging more than $40 for a plate of pad Thai). Bartsch's name is so synonymous with sensational extravagance that A-list hipsters stand obediently in line at her events. Perhaps it's the ambience — equal parts Alice In Wonderland, Quentin Tarantino-inspired porno, and Cirque du Soleil on acid. Or maybe it's the outlandish decorations — think giant dinosaurs for a scenic backdrop and makeshift stages painted the colors of the rainbow inhabited by gyrating midgets and dancing monsters seemingly ripped from the pages of a Star Trek script. Or maybe they show up en masse for the free-flowing booze, compliments of Ms. Bartsch; the soundtrack of sultry hypnotic trance spun by famed DJs; or the chance to mingle with the it boys and girls of the moment. But whenever and wherever her eclectic party is held, the queen puts a little something together and it's always a shocking success. And it always seems to outdo the last.
Every once in a while since this past Independence Day, an Amazonian goddess runs from the beach to the steps of the Palace Bar & Grill at 1200 Ocean Dr., a sparkly gold tiara holding up her flowing black mane. She dials in her invisible plane from a pay phone on the street, whips around her golden lasso to rope off evildoers, and uses her Athenian might to push automobiles out of her way. Honey, Linda Carter has nothing on this Wonder Woman, the Argentine chanteuse Geraldine. The spectacle attracts gawkers — straight and gay, young and old — enchanted by Geraldine's campy performance of DC Comics's most popular female superhero. "Who is more American than Wonder Womanç" Geraldine rhapsodizes. "When I did it the first time people loved it so much I kept doing it. But I try not to do it that often because then it gets boring." Spoken like a true Brodway superstar.And perhaps being Wonder Woman is a subconscious way of channeling her coming-out journey in Miami, where she first publicly showcased her cross-dressing talents upon arriving five years ago. "In Argentina I was still in the closet," Geraldine remembers. "When my family would leave the house and I'd be by myself, I would get dressed up. I would look at myself in the mirror and cry for a long time. Here I bloomed."Of course Wonder Woman is only one part of Geraldine's creative ensemble. On Monday nights, you can catch Geraldine, Fernandcute, and Juicy P performing a show at Laundry Bar (721 N. Lincoln Ln., Miami Beach). The Argentine-born performers dub themselves the Queen Cabaret. "Once a month we do a big production," Geraldine says. "Two weeks ago we did Marie Antoinette, including her beheading.... I love entertaining and making people laugh. I like to make fun of myself."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®