Florida Grand Opera
As with the best operas, The Tales of Hoffman, a 19th-century three-act work by German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach, is a stirring story that involves forbidden love, ominous symbolism, and tragic, untimely deaths. But unlike other operas, it also features enchanted mirrors, trippy magic goggles, and animatronic sex dolls. Based on the short stories of German fantasy and horror author E.T.A. Hoffman, with a French libretto by Jules Barbier, The Tales of Hoffman follows the poet's drunken odyssey of love. True to its creatively ambitious ways, Florida Grand Opera delivered a fast-paced epic production exceptionally conducted by Lucy Arner and featuring stirring performances by tenor David Pomeroy and soprano Elizabeth Futral. A fantasy opera such as The Tales of Hoffman can easily stall and languish under its own weight, but FGO produced a well-crafted spectacle that effectively captured the opera's grand scale and convoluted plot.
GableStage at the Biltmore has had its share of critically acclaimed and controversial plays — some comical, others surreal. But GableStage really shines when it comes to theatrical drama. Its small and intimate setting is perfect for productions such as last year's provocative Fifty Words and this year's moving A Round-Heeled Woman. Because the auditorium is packed tightly against the stage, the audience is right on top of the actors, lending a unique perspective. And the intimate space nurtures a more honest performance than the exaggerated belt-it-to-the-last-row screaming required in larger theaters. But the company's choice of plays, such as the politically driven Farragut North and the controversial Blasted, is what makes GableStage such a rich place to catch varied, diverse, and engaging dramas.
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi
Gary Marachek is a whole actor. He acts with his voice, his shoulders, his extraordinarily malleable face, and his quick fingers and feet. He acts so completely and with such acute physical instincts that his whole body seems to change shape from role to role. In 2007's La Cage aux Folles, he appeared rotund and with shortened arms, resembling a flamboyant tyrannosaur. As Fagin in Oliver!, Marachek became spindly — the miserly thief-master's nervous, calculating intelligence reflected in the tiny manipulations of his suddenly elongated fingers and in the softness of his fast, mincing steps. His grin, usually warm, stretched across blackened teeth to become ghastly and sepulchral, and his careworn face was twisted into a representation of long-frayed nerves — a sign of anxiety that has for so long overtaxed his adrenal glands that there is no longer a difference between giddiness and fear. Marachek did all of this while dancing and singing, and night after night he delivered perhaps the greatest version of "Considering the Situation," alternating between three or four distinct character voices to reflect the mercurial mental states of his poor, confused character.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®