Best Director 2011 | David Arisco | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.
Photo by Magnus Stark
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, "" 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."
Two of Edwidge Danticat's books (Krik? Krak! and Brother, I'm Dying) have been nominated for the prestigious National Book Award, one (The Farming of the Bones) won an American Book Award, and Brother, I'm Dying won the National Critics Book Circle Award. Danticat is the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and her books have been translated into a number of languages, including French, Spanish, Korean, German, Italian, and Swedish. And she lives right here in Miami. At a time when Haiti is deeply suffering, this Port-au-Prince native has been one of its most eloquent voices, chronicling the daily struggles and triumphs of her countrymen both here and at home. Danticat began writing as a "lonely little girl" on a "notebook made out of discarded fish wrappers [and] panty-hose cardboard" on an island where "writers don't leave any mark in the world." Don't believe everything you read. At age 42, this writer has already left her mark.
At the same time writer Chenjerai Hove's acclaim and success were growing in his native Zimbabwe, his popularity with strongman Robert Mugabe was plummeting to levels that could prove fatally dangerous in a virtual dictatorship. And no wonder: His political novel Masimba Avanhu? (Is This the People's Power?) directly took on Mugabe's rule, and his followup, Sister Sing Again Someday, tackled the power of disaffected women in Zimbabwean culture. As the work found more and more readers, Hove's home and office were burglarized, his unpublished works were seized, and his name crept up a government list of enemies of the state. In 2001, he was forced to flee Harare for refuge in Europe. Now, thanks to a program called the International City of Refuge Network, Hove has found a new home to create his art in Miami. Based at Miami Dade College, Hove has used his time in Florida to speak about political violence in Africa, to tackle new works about life as a political refugee, and to explore from abroad the turmoil in his homeland. It shouldn't be a surprise that Hove — whose fellowship lasts until 2012 — has found Miami a fertile place to craft a second chapter in his life. The Magic City, after all, knows a thing or two about how to treat el exilio.
The ball exploded off the bat with a crack like a car wreck and then traced a ballistic trajectory over the outfielders' heads. It screamed like a bullet until a scoreboard some 500 feet from home finally got in the way and earned a crater-size dent for its effort. Until he took the swing that authored that destructive missile of a homer, there was still some doubt about just how ready Mike Stanton might be for the Marlins' 2011 season. He was undoubtedly the brightest spot in the Fish's 2010 campaign, which saw beloved outfielder Cody Ross shipped to San Fran (where he promptly won a World Series), All-Star Dan Uggla traded to Atlanta, and franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez parked firmly in the doghouse for not running out fly balls. All Stanton did as a 20-year-old rookie, meanwhile, was bang 22 home runs (including a grand slam as his first-ever dinger), play killer defense in right, and knock in 58 runs. But when he missed most of the Grapefruit League this spring with a quadriceps strain, some observers worried he might face a sophomore slump as the premier power source in Sun Life Stadium. Or at least they did until his very first game on March 24, when he demolished that homer to center in his first plate appearance. And just for good measure, he hit another one out of the park in his next at-bat. Did we mention this kid just turned 21?
Courtesy of Lowe Art Museum
To call the Lowe's origins humble is an understatement. Its foundation began in three University of Miami classrooms back in 1950, until a free-standing facility opened to the public two years later. The museum's original holdings were donated by local philanthropists Joe and Emily Lowe. The initial gift has grown to include ancient artifacts and Native American and Asian art, as well as contemporary works and an expansive photography collection. In 2008, the museum added the Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts, featuring a dazzling collection of works by Dale Chihuly, Richard Jolly, and William Carlson, among others. It marked the Lowe's first expansion in more than a decade. The research and teaching institution is the top ticket in town, a place where viewers can catch Jewish mosaics from the Roman Empire and ancient Greek urns alongside contemporary Cuban paintings, pre-Columbian sculptures, African art, and Renaissance and Baroque paintings during one visit. It also hosts the popular LoweDown Happy Hour events, which regularly draw national lecturers to the museum and give visitors an opportunity to mingle with artists and curators. More impressive, South Florida's oldest museum has blossomed from its modest genesis in those three musty classrooms to a whopping 17,500 objects in its collection today.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®