South Florida theatres are busily gearing up for this year's American Theatre Critics Association Convention (May 10-13 in Key West; May 14-19 on Miami Beach).
In Miami, the Coconut Grove Playhouse has extended Death Defying Acts through May 19. The New Theatre, of Coral Gables closes its 10th-anniversary season with the world premiere of Schweitzer, written and performed by South Florida's Bill Yule (through May 19). Just blocks away, The Actors' Playhouse concludes its initial season at its new space on Miracle Mile with the musical Mating Habits of the Urban Male. The work, featuring music and lyrics by Michael Leeds, opens May 17 for an open-ended run.
New World Rep Company's Faith Healer, by Brian Friel, which garnered two Carbonell Awards for the 1994-95 season, is being remounted for a two-week run May 10-19 in Miami at the New World School of the Arts.
The Shores Performing Arts Theater in North Miami opened the world premiere musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame April 27. The gothic musical, written and composed by Christopher Bishop, continues through May 19.
On Miami Beach, the intimate Area Stage has mounted Gregory Henderson's award-winning one-man show, Big Wind on Campus (through May 19). The show, which won a 1995 Back Stage Bistro Award, takes its audience on a comic journey into the lives of seven characters at a southwestern university.
The Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton has Ted Tally's adventurous drama Terra Nova (through May 19) as its final show of the season. Meanwhile, slightly north, in Manalapan, The Pope Theatre Company has opened Jane Martin's Jack and Jill. The romantic comedy, which charts the affairs of a young man and woman as they meet, fall in love, marry, separate, divorce, and later meet again, continues through May 19.
Fort Lauderdale's Stage Door Theatre presents Avi Hoffman's award-winning one-man show, Too Jewish!, an engaging mix of song, comedy, culture, and social history (opens May 8 for an open-ended run).
Three plays by teenagers, collectively titled Writes of Spring, were presented by the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival and the Philadelphia Theatre Company (April 10-21). Playwrights Adam Goldberg, Jonathan Kravis, and Germyce C. McTillman reveal an impressive range of themes and styles in their work, capably performed by an ensemble featuring Juanita Vega, Joyce D. Willis, and Harry Philibosian.
At People's Light and Theatre Company, director Ron Himes' production of Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf from the St. Louis Black Repertory Company was remounted to great acclaim (April 10-May 5). The outstanding ensemble included PL&TC company members Cathy Simpson and Melanye Finister, choreographer Vivian E. Anderson-Watt, Jennifer Beavers, Tracy Holliway, Linda Kennedy, and Denise Thimes.
Two Shakespeare works suffer uneven treatment. In the Arden Theatre Company's Henry V (April 25-June 9), eight actors perform Aaron Posner's brisk, stripped-down production. Michael Medico fills the title role well. At Moylan's Hedgerow Theatre, artistic director Penelope Reed directs an uncharacteristically muddled, tedious As You Like It (April 11-May 25).
The Merry Widow, first produced in 1905, is brought to life by Rockwell Productions at the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts (April 24-May 26). Artistic Director Jesse Cline guides us elegantly through Franz Lehar's romantic musical, but it still runs nearly three hours. Patricia Dell plays the title role, with Tim Feerer as Prince Danilo.
Venture Theatre collaborated with Temple University's third year M.F.A. actors to present Gorky's The Lower Depths (April 18-27). The powerfully designed production featured exemplary performances by Frank X, Jamie L. Hurley, Jason Kolotouros, and an impressive ensemble.
Playwrights Theatre of Madison has chosen 12 plays from the elementary, junior, and high school divisions of its New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival, and one from the Spanish Language Initiative. The high school winners will be performed in a staged reading at State Theatre in New Brunswick at 10 am on Tues., May 14. The winning playwrights in the high school division are Catherine Keyser (from Sea Girt), David DeVito (Cranford), David Liotti (Red Bank), and David Kornhaber (River Edge). The winner of the Spanish Language Initiative is ÀDonde Esta mi Papi? by Katherine Barrios (Edison).
Casting has been announced in Madison for the opening production of the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival--the John Guare/Galt MacDermot musical Two Gentleman of Verona (May 22-June 15). It will be directed by Robert Duke and choreographed by Terry Lyn Berliner.
The gentlemen of the title, Valentine and Proteus, are played by Keith Byron Kirk and Philip Hernandez (Valentin in the Broadway cast of Kiss of the Spider Woman), respectively. Dana Reeve plays Julia, and Tamara Tunie makes her company debut as Sylvia.
Charles Dickens' Oliver gets a new twist at New Brunswick's George Street Playhouse, May 10-June 2, with a "musical adventure" called TWIST. The William F. Brown (book), Tena Clark/Gary Prim (music), and Tena Clark (lyrics) adaptation has the nine-year-old orphan (Alberto Cruz, Jr.), the son of a white mother (Tamara Baron) and a black father (Lawrence Hamilton) in New Orleans, La., in the roaring '20s. TWIST is directed by the company's artistic director, Gregory S. Hurst, with choreography by Mercedes Ellington. The design team includes Donald Holder (lights), Atkin Pace (sets), Teresa Snider-Stein (costumes), and Jeff Willens (sound).
--LARRY S. LEDFORD
Austin's reputation as a political and cultural crossroads receives a theatrical endorsement this month with the world premiere of The Dead Presidents' Club, Larry L. King's latest play, at the Live Oak Theatre (May 10-June 2). The play, billed as a "comedy-fantasy pitting four former U.S. Presidents against eternity," features Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, and Calvin Coolidge in an afterlife of poker games, political reflection, and final reckonings. G.W. Bailey, best known for his roles as Sergeant Rizzo on TV's M*A*S*H and Captain Harris in the Police Academy films, will direct and star as Nixon.
Dead Presidents is Larry L. King's seventh play; among the others are The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Kingfish, and The Night Hank Williams Died. Dead Presidents has been in development for some time, and received a staged reading at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ's alma mater) last fall. King says he has known personally all the famous characters in the play "except Calvin Coolidge and God." He has been working with Live Oak artistic director Don Toner for several years, beginning with their collaboration on Whorehouse.
On May 3, Patti LuPone took the stage of Austin's historic Paramount Theatre for a concert benefiting the new Austin Musical Theatre, and on May 5, Fort Worth native (and Casa Ma„ana Theatre alum) Betty Buckley, taking a break from Broadway's Sunset Boulevard, performed for the benefit of Casa's Children's Playhouse. In Houston, the Alley Theatre opened The Heiress, Ruth and Augustus Goetz's adaptation of the Henry James novel Washington Square (through June 1), and Nicky Silver's The Food Chain (May 17-June 9). Theatre Under the Stars closes its season with the British revival Me and My Girl (May 16-June 2); Theatre Lab Houston has the John Jiler and Ray Leslie "a cappella musical" Avenue X (through June 8); and Dallas' Kitchen Dog Theatre stages David Mamet's Oleanna (May 16-June 9).