Best Theatrical Production 2008 | Animals & Plants (Adam Rapp) | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

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).

So you want to get the hell outta Dodge, but you can't afford a plane ticket to a faraway kingdom. No worries, mate — pack up your camping equipment and head down to Big Pine. For more than 30 years, the lodge has been a home away from home for those who want to get away from home. Why? Is it the amply sized campgrounds, complete with rustic-style or fully hooked-up sites? Is it the RV sites and the clean public bathrooms? Is it the proximity of both Key West and Islamorada for dinners followed by debauchery? Perhaps. But we also attribute it to the key deer, the adorable, nearly extinct, dog-size critters that have put Big Pine Key on the map. The deer aren't afraid to walk right up to you for tidbits. You aren't supposed to feed them, of course. But if you don't, the cute little bastards might just dig through your garbage bag when you're not looking. Less than an hour's drive away, Big Pine is a perfect escape from Miami drivers, violence, and intensity.

Alma, where are we?

How should I know? You're the one with the steering wheel, Max.

Well, we were just driving through Miami Shores on our way to North Miami; it seemed simple enough.

Then you took that shortcut.

That was because of all that traffic on NE Sixth Avenue, especially the buses.

Well, which way did you turn, Mr. Adventurer?

Right. You notice all these grassy medians?

Yes, they're so pretty and peaceful. And shady. Where's the map?

Whoa! Look at that green open space! Is that a park or something?

I don't see a sign. Just looks like a regular street.

A regular street with an extra-wide median the size of a small park. Hey, there's another one!

I know. They're all over the place. Watch where you're going! Where's the map?

It's around here somewhere ...

Remember the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. There are people and kids and dogs walking all over the place.

Here's the map. I better look at that thing. Let me find a spot to pull over. I notice there aren't any cars parked in the street.

How about up ahead, next to that log cabin?

Good idea. What is this place, a restaurant?

"Biscayne Park Police Department." Wow, they have their own police department!

Okay, here it is on the map, northeast of Miami Shores, south of North Miami, and west of the railroad tracks. Now I know where we are. See here on the map?

It's even shaped like a jewel!

As if free bottles of Yellow Tail and Bacardi weren't enough for those sexy single ladies out to prowl, how about some really nifty contemporary art? On the second Saturday of every month, both Wynwood and the Design District light up as art galleries open their doors with open wine bars and funky DJs mishmashing Flock of Seagulls with Rick Ross. Best of all, every single, bearded, black-rimmed-glasses-wearing hipster male who reads 19th-century Russian novels will be out and about on this faithful night to, you guessed it, meet you, you hot, single sex kitten! Free booze and weird art bring out the best of single men this city has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Crank out your red lipstick and Lucite heels and go get 'em, tiger! Oh, and did we mention the free booze?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®