Joseph Adler is a big personality with a big voice, big hair, and a big heart. So Adding Machine must have been quite a trick for him. The musical, composed in 2008 by Joshua Schmidt and written by Schmidt and Jason Loewith, is a modernist horror story based on Elmer Rice's nearly forgotten 1927 play The Adding Machine. Its story follows the spiritual decay of a man who loses his job to a machine, just when he is on the verge of turning into a machine himself. The show is meant to summon the feel of an early 20th-century industrial utopia gone awry — a world of smokestacks and conveyor belts, of perfectly conditioned workers diligently plunking away for their pay and rations of leisure time. The individual is invisible in such a world, and for one and a half hours at Adler's GableStage, the personalities of all involved in Adding Machine's production were notable only by their absence. Adler and his cast hardened their hearts, stepped away from the footlights, and let us see the only personality that mattered in this context: the blind and hungry void of industry gone mad.

The same basic story of seven or so strangers picked to live in a house has been told now on MTV's Real World for 21 seasons and counting, but the format is getting a bit old. It's become a "watch hot kids get drunk and hook up show," which is only exciting to impressionable young teens who can't wait to get drunk and hook up on their own some day. So this year, MTV decided to switch things up for the Brooklyn season. Yeah, there were some drunk hookups, but more importantly there was the first transgendered housemate, an Iraq war vet, and JD Ordonez, a gay kid from Miami with an abusive father who put himself through school to become a dolphin trainer. Of course, JD's 15 minutes started ticking a little earlier than his housemates, as even before it was known he'd been cast in the show, gossip blogs were talking about a rumored relationship the kid had. We're not in the business of blind items here, but let's call the rumored ex Blanderson Pooper.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi

Costume quality, more than any other aspect of theater, is determined by money. If you've got a lot of it, you can dress your actors as cats, French aristocracy, Queen Elizabeth, or anything else. If you don't have any, you dress them in corduroy and denim. So let's take a moment to praise a decision that had almost nothing to do with money, though it was made in service of a production with plenty of money to throw around. To wit: to dress Shane R. Tanner in tights that were ever so slightly too small in Actors' Playhouse's wonderful 1776. The tights were a very light gray — under the lights, they became the color of an aviation cocktail — and if they didn't show absolutely everything as Tanner tromped angrily around the stage singing "Molasses to Rum," they showed enough. The man has beautiful thighs. His quads could crack a Brazil nut, and do unspeakably wonderful things to any softer-fleshed critter. His calves are constructed of the same curves and angles God first employed to create the hindquarters of a horse — sensuous, meaty, almost edible. You want to touch them. Or bite them. At the very least, you want to see them again.

HistoryMiami
Courtesy of HistoryMiami

Here's a fun game: Call Dr. Paul George, knowledge shah at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and mention any prominent local name, current or ancient, to him. Norman Braman. Julia Tuttle. Chief Neamathla. Al Capone. After George has finished explaining the intricacies of their personal stories and their relevance to the region, throw some historical developments at him. The Dade Massacre. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Interama. January 2, 1984, at the Orange Bowl. Commence jaw-dropping as he brings yesterday's Miami to highly detailed life with Rain Man-esque accuracy. But if you keep calling him, he's probably going to get annoyed — he ain't Miss Cleo. So sign up for one of Dr. George's countless tours, designed more for locals than tourists. Via walking, Metromover, boat, or bicycle, they cost from $20 to $44 and cover everything from local black history to famous criminals to the secrets of Miami City Cemetery. If you treasure Marley & Me as a South Florida period piece, it's time for a checkup with the doctor.

You've had meals that cost more than the average Naked Stage set, yet this little theater somehow crams more mojo, authenticity, and oozy-walled atmosphere into its sets than any ten super-expensive shows at (name of shitty theater on Miracle Mile deleted by editor). Maybe it's because the room is shaped like a very long shoebox, with a stage that stretches back and back and back. Or maybe it's because the theater's founders — Katherine Amadeo, Antonio Amadeo, and John Manzelli — have mad flair. Whatever — all of their shows bring you somewhere else. But 4.48 Psychosis, by the suicidal (and now, sadly, suicided) Sarah Kane, sucked you into an alternate dimension. Gravity was suspended, with bloodstained furniture floating around like it was on some gothic space station. Hidden fans whipped back the actors' hair for no reason at all. At one point, a dirty sink glowed with an unholy blue light. A wall seemed to melt away and was replaced with an industrial shower, which looked like a place you might go to get deloused or Zykloned. All of this was done with the assistance of theatrical polymath Paul Tei, who, together with the Amadeos and Manzelli, ensured we left the theater with the uneasy feeling that the whole damn universe was booby-trapped and that absolutely anything could happen.

OK, so Betrayed wasn't completely new when it opened at Joe Adler's GableStage. But it still had that new-play smell. George Packer is probably the best writer The New Yorker has had in a decade or more, and his 2007 article about the Iraqi translators who teamed up with American forces after the 2003 invasion ("Betrayed: The Iraqis Who Trusted America Most") was one of the most powerful pieces of journalism written lately. Packer is no 9-to-5er, and he felt its power too: The plight of the secular, liberty-loving, life-risking Democraphiles he'd met in Iraq haunted his dreams, and this play was the result. It gave the reactionary liberals who proliferated in George W. Bush's second term — the ones with the curiously partitioned minds, who deplored totalitarianism in theory but thought it tolerable in practice, at least when its only enemy was a corrupt Republican administration — one hell of a jolt and reminded our glibbest hawks what the real fight was about and what it was worth. A play can hope to do no more.

You know that obnoxious girl at the gym? The one that answers her cell phone while she's on the treadmill? Well, she would last about two seconds with Mickey Demos. The bad-ass, muscle-bound 44-year-old former boxing coach uses the same tough love, run-till-you-puke philosophy for his average Joe and Jane clients as he did for the late Golden Gloves champ Gus Rahming Jr. "I'll scream like a drill sergeant to get you beyond your limit," he says. "It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 75." In the past four years of training, he has gained a loyal following of gluttons for punishment. They range from high-powered lawyers to troubled street kids. His clients swear by his workout routine which includes a combination of cardio, weight training, and amateur boxing. He now works out of Extreme Gym on 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, charges $50 per hour, and plans to open his own gym this summer. Be sure to leave your cell phone at home.

Annette Solar would make a kick-ass comic book character. The librarian by day, bodybuilder by night makes you wonder if she's sporting a Superwoman costume under her white-collared shirt. Although she's not the largest figure competitor, the formerly obese 32-year-old has overcome many obstacles to get her tight, chiseled body. Born with a thyroid disorder, the five-foot-four-inch Latin bookworm weighed 260 pounds and barely had the energy to get out of bed when she began training two years ago. "My friends were like, 'You're doing what?'" she says. "I just started working out like crazy." She soon got hooked on a seven-day-a-week routine, began to eat regimented portions of fish and salad, and was able to get down to a muscular 125 pounds last year. Today, this Latin beauty could beat most guys in a barroom arm-wrestling match. On second thought, forget the comic books. We hear reality TV calling.

Art communicates first to the heart and then climbs its way to the brain on a ladder of associations — memories, snippets of things once seen or heard, allusions to the past. No recent musical has used association so evocatively as Adding Machine. In it, the industrial U-turned dystopia of early 20th-century modernism was conjured up through music that nodded to Brecht and Weill, coupled with an aesthetic derived in equal parts from Henry Ford, Fritz Lang, Tristan Tzara, and Le Corbusier. A story of a worker both made redundant by and subsumed into a brave new world of automation, Adding Machine is an old-school Marxist critique of frightening acuity: Singing out a series of numbers in dazzlingly precise polyrhythm, Adding Machine's characters transform into automatons themselves. If we, too, weren't a little too machine-like, the sight would send us running from the Biltmore, with the bad old future like a dead wind at our backs.

Just like the Buffalo Bills, no one circles the wagons like the Jews if, of course, those wagons happen to be filled with reels of film. Tapping into a rich tradition of narrative, political awareness, and commentary, Jewish film is a cut above the other arbitrary category distinctions film festivals always subdivide into, specifically because it pays close attention to its own "otherness." It doesn't hurt that Israel is undergoing a cinematic renaissance or that the number of contemporary challenges to Judaism — assimilation, Gaza, resurgent anti-Semitism — are manifold. Just as earlier Jews used exegeses of the Torah to keep Judaism relevant to the contemporary moment, Jewish filmmakers are using cinema to ask the same kind of questions: "What behaviors are Jewish?" "What defines a Jew?" And the goal is much the same as well: to keep the tradition alive. Their explorations are relevant to all of us, regardless of religion and ethnicity.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®