Miami Theater Center

The memory of Kei Berlin's performance, like a great number of things about Animals & Plants, left everyone who saw it with the queasy suspicion that nothing that followed was its equal. They're right. Playing Kassandra, a sexy hippie chick who works at a head shop in the Carolinas, she blew into the protagonists' motel room in the middle of a blizzard for no reason at all, and the heat from her great big heart seemed apt to melt the snow outside. She had wise and laughing eyes peeking out of a gorgeous face atop a hot young bod, and not only did you want to get to know her but also you felt that, somewhere, you already had. She didn't arrive until late in the play, and when she did, all that had come before seemed incomplete. People could fall in love with this Kassandra, and those who did might now be wondering where in hell Kei has gone since then. She hasn't appeared at Mad Cat, nor at GableStage or New Theatre or anywhere else, as far as we know. Wake up, darling. The world needs you.

Serve.

Located in the heart of South Beach, this court boasts colorful Art Deco apartments as the backdrop for swinging tennis rackets and soaring fuzzy balls.

Love – 15.

The 17 brightly lit clay courts are far enough from camera-toting tourists yet close enough to the inviting surf and sand.

Love – 30.

The practice wall is the spot for singles looking for doubles, and the full-service pro shop is where strings are tightened and expert advice dispensed.

Love – 40.

After three sets of grunting, running, and swinging alongside your neighbors, a dip in Flamingo Park's pool is second to none.

Game. Set. Match.

Miami Theater Center

Mad Cat's just got something. The Carbonells might not see it, billionaire philanthropists have yet to see it, your great-grandmother might have a hard time figuring it out, but it's there. And in the years since the company began, legions of smart young theater people with more taste than money have found Mad Cat and responded. It's partly the tiny, immersive space; partly the company's knack for creepy mood lighting; partly the fabulous taste in music. But mostly it's balls, enthusiasm, and verve — the sense you're entering a space where smart and passionate people are doing what they do best. In any given country in any given decade, it's a good bet there are only a few places where the real art is going down, where the stakes are high and everybody looks and feels like they're on amphetamines, just from the wild rush of creation. Sometimes it's Max's Kansas City; sometimes it's City Lights. Maybe now it's Mad Cat. It's a long shot, but these things do have to start somewhere.

Miami Theater Center

Of course it's Animals & Plants. The competition wasn't even close. Anything you could possibly want out of theater — and a lot of it — could be found in this production. The script, which tells the story of two small-time dope dealers holed up in a snowbound motel, was human, funny, and weird. The acting from Eric Fabregat, Joe Kimble, Kei Berlin, and Scott Genn was inspired, carried out by people who not only got the script, but also who seemed as excited by its possibilities as we were. The set was dankly atmospheric, and there were little moments of pure terror that came out of nowhere, land mines buried deep in the performances, the set, and the dialogue that made the whole endeavor otherworldly. Anybody who watched carefully was moved, and they stayed that way.

From mid-December through mid-February, Miami fell in love with a carnival of freaks that descended on the shores of South Beach. This band of burlesque revivalists pitched its psychedelic tent on the sands of Collins Park, at 21st Street and Collins Avenue. Each performer had his or her own bag of tricks. Nate Cooper, a dashing, muscular fellow, juggled knives while dressed in drag. Raphaelle Boitel, an olive-skinned, dark-haired beauty, lay on her stomach and curled her legs over her head so her feet dangled in front of her face. Julie Atlas Muz, who holds the title of Miss Exotic World 2006, straddled an aesthetic chasm on towering platform heels. Their performances were surpassed only by the raunchy and politically incorrect antics of the potty-mouthed ringmaster known only as "The Gazillionaire." A slender chap dressed in a white tuxedo jacket, black slacks, and sparkly gold pointy-toe shoes to match his lone gold tooth, The Gazillionaire shoved his padded crotch into guests' faces when he wasn't kicking the air or offering women a dollar to show their nipples to the audience. He was once a clown for Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. before landing his gig MCing Spiegelworld's Absinthe and Late Night Lounge. Prior to packing up the tent, he revealed to New Times why he loves the intimacy of his shows: "I want people to feel my sweat." Let's hope The Gazillionaire will get to drip on us again next year.

Whatever will we do when Dwight Lauderdale unclips his mike and steps away from the anchor desk for the last time? The local news legend — South Florida's first black television anchor, we'll have you know — has announced his official retirement will be May 21. "I'll be at home, sipping a little Pinot Noir and watching you," he informed co-anchor Laurie Jennings (who still looks like actress Tiffani-Amber Thiessen disguised as a soccer mom, if you ask us). Why will we miss Mr. Lauderdale so very, very much? Quite simply, there's something compelling about him. He's not afraid to cast a disapproving frown or let that bass voice deepen to an ominous rumble if a story bothers his moral sensibilities. Unlike some local news anchors (ahem, former Deco Drivers), Lauderdale has always prized substance over style. He seems to resent the increasing celebritization of the news. His "whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis" expressions at Jennings's foot-in-mouthisms never fail to bring the LOLs. He reminds us of Marmaduke, in the best possible way.

Last October, investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier gave us some sublime television when he stood up to police and demanded his journalistic rights. A camera caught several cops bullying him off a public sidewalk outside Miami Central High School.

"You guys are totally wrong on this," he says on an unedited video on the Local 10 website, as cops escort him across the street. The reporter later says to the camera: "They're going to arrest me. You're going to get it on camera." Soon the plucky journalist heads back, thus provoking a fleshy, mustached cop.

"I am giving you a lawful order to get off the sidewalk," the officer yells in Weinsier's face.

"I'm not," he says calmly, before getting cuffed and locked up.

Police later found a loaded handgun on Weinsier.

A month later, all charges against him were dropped by the State Attorney's Office. Weinsier later filed suit against the Miami-Dade County school board and three school police officers. Go get 'em, Jeff. But next time you head to a school, try leaving the weapon at home.

Dexter isn't just a murderous psychopath; he is a Miami psychopath. In the first episode, he relates his hunger for blood to some people smashing stone crab claws at a fair. He disposes of his victims' bodies in Biscayne Bay and revels in his knowledge that Miami's police department is unlikely to catch him.

Michael C. Hall (from HBO's Six Feet Under) is Emmy-worthy as the psychopathic vigilante. He has mastered the silent stare of the homicidal maniac, sending chills through the viewer when the camera slowly closes in on his steely eyes and sadistic smile. Despite Dexter's murderous nature, Hall's performance actually makes you sympathize with the character as he seeks out only other killers (no innocents, no children) to chop into pieces.

The Miami River is one of the most underrated beauties the city has to offer. Sure, it's a faded, grungy beauty, but beneath Miami's sheen of glitz and glamour, the river remains a secret flowing artery. The best way to see it is by bike: Start at Bicentennial Park, or anywhere else downtown, and take NE Sixth Street west — through some of what's left of historic Overtown and under the interstate that largely obliterated it — until you get to the river. Turn right and follow it south along NW North River Drive, and take in the tugboats and barges laden with cheap goods bound for the Islands. The road will curve to the west and become SW Third Street — just keep on going until you hit SW Second Avenue. Make a right, head south across the bridge, and continue until you hit SW Seventh street, where you will make another right (this is the boring part). At SW Third Avenue, though, the trip gets better. Take it north to José Martí Park, a quirky and surprisingly scenic little spot that offers a nice behind-the-scenes vista of the river, as well as tables where you can sit, drink whatever you've got in that bottle, and enjoy life a bit. When you feel like it, make your way to SW Fourth Avenue, which becomes — behold — NW South River Drive. Follow the river, observe the homeland security warnings, and see if you can get in trouble for taking pictures of the tugboats (apparently it's a form of terrorism). Continue as long as you like up the river; in a perfect world, you'd be able to cross back to Miami via the bride at NW Fifth Street, but it's out of commission indefinitely, so turn around when you feel like it and head home.

Front Porch Cafe

There are no maître'drones herding tourists in from the sidewalk. No overcooked lobster sits under plastic wrap at the door. And most important, there's nothing over $20 on the menu. Everyone knows that Front Porch Café offers one of the best brunches on the Beach, but the eatery is often forgotten about at lunch and dinner. Almost all the fresh, homemade entrées are under $15. Try the sushi-grade tuna encrusted with sesame seeds and served with orange ginger sauce — just $14.95. You don't have to walk inland to eat after a day at the beach. Stick around, enjoy the view of Lummus Park, and take another bite of that chicken caesar salad wrap (less than $10).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®