Sharon Gless is best known as Cagney in the '80s cop procedural Cagney & Lacey and to modern TV audiences as the neurotic, chain-smoking mom in Burn Notice. But Gless made her mark on the South Florida theater scene as Jane, the semiretired 66-year-old divorced schoolteacher looking for some nooky in GableStage's provocative and humorous production of A Round-Heeled Woman. As the sexually repressed but always amiable Jane, Gless owned the stage via a humorous and earnest performance that had audiences laughing and suffering with her. Employing an even mixture of emotion and vulnerability, she was equal parts innocent and sexual adventurer, and her genuine openness and underlying heartache pulled viewers in while Jane's coital odyssey unfolded. In a 90-minute play sans intermission, Gless grabbed hold of her uninhibited character and put on an exceptional performance that conveyed Jane's repressed angst, struggles, and irrepressible hope.
Sure, the Dolphins don't have a viable franchise quarterback. They don't have a field-spreading deep threat. And they don't have a very competent coaching staff. But they do have a skull-crushing, quarterback-mauling sack machine in linebacker Cameron Wake. He was drafted by the New York Giants out of Penn State in 2005 but failed to make the roster. He then went to the Canadian Football League, where he led the league in sacks for two consecutive seasons. That's when the NFL took notice, and in 2009 he signed a four-year deal with Miami. During his two seasons with the Dolphins, Wake has amassed 19.5 sacks, 14 of them coming in his first full season last year, and has quickly garnered a reputation around the NFL as one of the most feared pass rushers. Wake will be releasing the kraken all over NFL offenses for the Dolphins for years to come.
Sharon Gless's outstanding turn as Jane in A Round-Heeled Woman was made all the better by a terrific cast that portrayed multiple characters. Antonio Amadeo in particular stood out with a versatile performance in which he brought humor, tragedy, emotion, and sympathy. He was slick, sexy, and hilarious as a dance teacher. He was obtuse and romantic as the imagined literary character John Ball come to life. And he was charming and hopelessly smitten as the amiable Graham. But his portrayal as Jane's troubled son Andy really had Amadeo digging deep into a turbulent bag of emotion and intensity. Playing such varied and wide-ranging roles in one performance could lead an actor to lose his way or to simply mail it in, but Amadeo nailed it. His characters ran the gamut of outrageous to tragic, and the actor pulled it off brilliantly.
Watching Aubrey Shavonn's angry, undifferentiated performance in last year's In Development (in which, to be fair, she wasn't given much to work with), one would never have guessed she could play a character as weird, complex, and soulful as Trixie — a seedy Southern belle with a deep and abiding love for our national drink, Coca-Cola, in Rogelio Martinez's Fizz. This love would lead her to threaten Coke CEO Robert Goizueta at gunpoint and take him on an exploration of what it means to be an American. In Rodriguez's imagining, to be an American is to be untamed, street-smart, sentimental, hard-edged, tackily artful, and impulsive yet moral. And everything Goizueta learned in the play, Shavonn embodied in a performance full of genuine warmth, touching intricacies, and grand, funny gestures. Trixie was Aubrey Shavonn's first major role on a Florida stage, and we hope to see much more of the actress soon.
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi
A three-act, three-hour Pulitzer Prize-winning play featuring 13 actors tasked with embodying all the wrenching emotions of a monstrously dysfunctional family while displaying great comedic timing and unyielding stamina is a huge undertaking. Yet director David Arisco was more than up for the job when Actors' Playhouse brought Tracy Lett's emotionally charged August: Osage County to the Miracle Theatre stage. A darkly funny and epic play, August tells the tale of the Westons, a large family forced to come together at their pastoral Oklahoma homestead after the boozehound patriarch disappears and the 65-year-old matriarch pops pills to ease her pain and burden. In the midst of the turmoil, the Weston clan must deal with some thorny issues. The challenge of such a massive and bold play can be fraught with problems and hiccups. But with the help of an amazing set piece by Sean McClelland, terrific lighting by Patrick Tennent, and a superb cast led by Annette Miller and Laura Turnbull, August has become David Arisco's masterwork.
Sharon Gless's brilliant and charming portrayal of the sexually repressed Jane in A Round-Heeled Woman needed an equally brilliant supporting ensemble to play the crazy lives she encountered throughout her journey. And director Joseph Adler surrounded her with five costars playing multiple roles to do just that. Antonio Amadeo's versatile performance as a dance teacher, John Ball, Graham, and Jane's troubled son Andy ranged from outrageous to tragic. Stephen G. Anthony lost himself in his characters as the exceptionally ignorant douchebag Eddie the cabbie, the tragically displaced Robert, the deviant soul as Jane's father, and the emotionally detached drunk John. Likewise, Howard Elfman was both likable and loathsome as Jonah, Mr. Rubb, and Sidney the old perv, who hungrily tells Jane to place her tits on the dinner table during a date. The always-fiery Laura Turnbull portrayed Jane's pal Celia, but she really dug her teeth into Jane's disapproving mother with her finger-wagging criticism throughout the story. Kim Ostrenko, who played Jane's other best friend, Nathalie, saved her strongest performance for Margaret McKenzie, Jane's imaginary friend from her favorite Trollope novel. Many local ensembles feature actors who come from the school of I-smell-a-fart-acting, where every emotion is conveyed with the same squint and arched brow. The cast of A Round-Heeled Woman, however, was decidedly not one of those ensembles.
An exploration of African-American culture and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman and conveyed via the various church hats (or "crowns") donned by her family, Crowns was a full-on spiritual celebration with rap, gospel music, and dance. The entire cast, led by the incomparable Tony Award-winning Melba Moore and the fiery Lela Elam, was flawless, bringing Regina Taylor's exquisite script to soul-stirring life with verve and power. Old-timey gospel tunes such as "Marching to Zion" and "That's All Right" gave the show its heart and soul; "None but the Righteous" had the audience clapping and stomping along; and "Eye on the Sparrow" made sure there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Few theater productions transform into a full-on spiritual awakening. And that's exactly what the M Ensemble did with its production of Crowns.
Nery Saenz: Knock-knock.

Miami: Who's there?

NS: Nery Saenz.

Miami: Mary Signs, who?

NS: No, no, Ne-ry Sa

Miami: Hold up, is this Mary, like Mary-Mary? 'Cause I straight up told you I don't care what Maury Povich says — that baby ain't mine!

NS: No, not Mary. Nery, you know, the comic.

Miami: Oh, you're a comic?

NS: Yeah.

Miami: So tell me a joke.

NS: OK. Telling someone he's a lucky guy is just another way of saying, "I want to bang your girl."

Miami: Ha-ha, so true, bro! Tell me another!

NS: I'm 26 and live with my parents.

Miami: What's so funny about that?

NS: Dude, never mind. So can I come in now?

Miami: Who are you?

NS: I'm Nery Saenz.

Miami: Mary? Didn't I just tell you to leave?

NS: No, it's Nery Saenz, just Nery Saenz!

Miami: Knock-knock.

NS: Yo, why are you knocking?

Miami: I like to knock.

NS: But you're already inside. I'm supposed to be knocking so I can come in.

Miami: Are you a cop?

This is the life of Nery Saenz. So funny but with such a funky-sounding name that most of us who live in this magical city (brimming with a magical herb that enables us to magically forget everything) can never remember the name of this talented, young stand-up who has the magical ability to force last night's coke straight out of our nostrils. Such is the reason why homeboy had to set up a website with an address that reads, "whatwashisname.com." But once you experience his Miami Improv act, pumped full of genuine and likeable Sweetwater swagger (not to mention memorable jokes about long-term commitments to online girlfriends, cupcakes, and blowjobs), this Nicaraguan-American's name becomes a lot easier to remember.
Karen Russell's debut novel is so impressive that Miami should drop the nickname Magic City and go with Swamplandia. Her book of the same name follows the Bigtrees, a family of gator wrestlers struggling to keep their Everglades tourist attraction open. Orphaned by cancer and poverty, teen daughter Ava ventures deep into the Glades to rescue her sister Osceola, who has run off to elope with a dredgeman's ghost. Ava's trek down the River of Grass becomes emblematic of the murky period between youth and adulthood, the blur between the supernatural and the natural, the dizziness of a place in flux. Russell's prose is impressive, and with Swamplandia!, she plows new literary ground. If it had a name, the genre might be called "swamp gothic" for its traces of Joseph Conrad, Flannery O'Connor, and even Hitchcock. Russell is also quick to recognize South Florida's notorious eccentric side, something she describes in interviews as our "pretty short commute to strangeness." But unlike Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen, Russell doesn't just jeer at Miami's weird characters and mores. She eulogizes them. If you've ever zigzagged your bike around the gators in Shark Valley, Swamplandia! will make nostalgia well up in your throat: "A tumor-headed buzzard cocked its head and looked at us behind the café glass, not quizzically like a sparrow or a gull, but with a buzzard's bored wisdom," she writes, "and I imagined then that this bird, too, must also know the story, and that all the quiet trees and clouds had always known the story." When people ask you what it was like growing up in South Florida, just hand them this book.
Short is not always a shortcut. In fact, it takes real balls to write something as abridged as a haiku. After all, three lines and 17 syllables leave few places to hide. It's strange, then, that the Japanese used the potent form to wax poetic about spring's first cherry blossom. The nuggets seem so loaded for satire. Consider Hialeah Haikus, the amusing and insightful poetry collection by local author collective Foryoucansee. Instead of evoking nightingales and harvest moons, these haikus parody Miami bros, Miami hos, and disapproving abuelas. The collection is now in its second printing after selling 300 copies in its first month of publication and 1,000 soon thereafter. It all started when the authors — a merry band of Miami artists, writers, and actors in their 20s and 30s — began sending each other haiku text messages. The playful exchange led to not only an ingenious book but also live readings where the authors, faces painted as if by a poor man's Romero Britto, recite their five-seven-five verse. "I hate Abuela./Why she gotta call my girl,/'La Tira-flecha'" or "Cool Water and gel —/We roll like 20 heads deep./Belen spring formal."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®