Best Set Design 2009 | The Naked Stage and friends for Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis and others | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

Miami Beach, 2071. Two tourists, Gina and Tina, are standing outside the laser rope at the entrance to Plato, the newest "it" club on Collins. The bouncer looks them up and down. "IDs, please," he says. The girls beam them over. The bouncer hands them back two molecular pens and presses a button that illuminates a hologram in front of them. "You have 30 seconds to successfully complete this quiz," he says. The questions range from "What's the 123rd element in the periodic table?" to "Briefly describe the cultural and technological ramifications of the Peloponnesian War" — tough, but Gina and Tina are prepared, having downloaded the answers into their earrings two hours ago. When they finish, the hologram turns green and the rope momentarily disappears. Woody/Andre holds the door, and they're in. In one corner, two half-naked Russian guys are playing chess, and one looks to be playing the Benko gambit to counter the other's fianchetto. In another corner, two Matt Damon lookalikes do trigonometry on an old-fashioned dry-erase board, while their friend declaims openly about the influence of David Foster Wallace on post-postmodernist poets. In short, Gina and Tina's cerebellums are soaking-wet. How did Miami turn into this paradise of intellectualism?

When scholars look back, they'll probably point to the founding of JAM@MAM, the hip cocktail party the Miami Art Museum throws every third Thursday of the month between 5 and 8 p.m. For just $10 (free for members, hint, hint), young Miamians can tour the museum's current exhibit, swap equations in the VIP lounge, or just look professorial on the loggia while listening to live music and sampling the gourmet appetizers. Of course, there's alcohol too (for a small donation). After all, this is Miami we're talking about, and sometimes even geniuses need liquid courage to seal the deal.

The world can take only so many "quirky" teenage indie comedies. Personally, we had enough with that cringe-worthy line, "This is one doodle that can't be undid, homeskillet," from Juno. But we'll make an exception for Bart Got a Room, a charming comedy about Danny Stein (played by Steven Kaplan), a boy who grew up in a suburban Miami retirement community, desperately trying to find the right prom date. We know what you're thinking: Sounds like one of those Michael Cera vehicles. But did Cera ever share the screen with William H. Macy (a Miami-birthed boy), who plays an awkward dad who has to wake up every day and manage his midlife crisis and Jew-fro? Did Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines play his mom? Were any of his movies written and directed by South Florida native Brian Hecker? We didn't think so.

Are you one of those rare sexual creatures who prefer brain shape to butt shape? If so, you might be what the scientific community refers to as a "Brain Admirer" or BA for short. And besides discrimination, there is one major challenge facing all BAs: Where to find big-brained ladies? Sure, you could trawl the obvious spots — Mensa mixers, quiz tournaments, CAT scan clinics. But to drastically increase your chances of bagging that super-evolved female with the four-pound brain, head to The Bas Fisher Invitational Gallery where, since 2004, beautiful women with unnaturally big ideas have regularly gathered. Located in the Design District's famed Buena Vista building, the gallery is home to Miami's most daring contemporary art. However, resist that urge to bone up on artsy jargon; instead, get that brainiac babe to play teacher to your eager student. After all, like all good BAs say, Sexiness is all about her brain and how she chooses to use it.

Remember when the British were our primary foreign policy problem? It's amazing to think that Elton John and company once had the sack (pun alert!) to burn down the White House, especially since they've spent the past eight years playing Flavor Flav to George Bush's Public Enemy #1. (Their only rebuttal was the cinematic wishful thinking of Love, Actually, in which Prime Minister Hugh Grant rebuffs Billy Bob Thornton's W. at a press conference, not for political reasons, mind you, but because he tried to feel up Grant's secretary. Is that what it takes to light a fire under you, Britain? Message received. The next time our leaders won't listen to us, we'll just send Chris Brown to rough up Lily Allen.) But back to Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Written with the heart-racing pace of Standiford's John Deal mysteries, Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision for Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army tracks inside the Beltway from when it was a controversial pick for the nation's capital, to a heap of rubble after the War of 1812, to one of the most poetic municipal projects in history, all packaged in a lucid prose that would make Henry Higgins proud.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®