BY CHRISTINE DOLEN
The economy played the villain (again) in South Florida theater, leaving the venerable black theater troupe M Ensemble temporarily homeless, keeping younger companies like Ground Up & Rising and The State Theatre Project on the move, forcing even the most established theater companies to find creative ways to do more with less.. And yet they do: Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre Company did another concert version of a big Stephen Sondheim musical, this time Follies; GableStage took slimmed-down Shakespeare into the schools; the International Hispanic Theatre Festival (now 25) and City Theatre’s 15-year-old Summer Shorts celebrated anniversaries that stand as testaments to art and adaptation.
Serious Spanish-language theater continues to blossom, enough so that Teatro en Miami founders Ernesto and Sandra Garcia cooked up TEMFest 2010 to showcase homegrown fare.
Meanwhile, despite the announcement a year ago that GableStage’s Joseph Adler would become artistic director at a smaller-sized Coconut Grove Playhouse, local theater’s most drawn-out drama – will Miami’s historic theater, closed since 2006 and coveted by politicians, corporations and developers, ever really reopen? – continues to unfold at a molasses-like pace.
1. Great performances: A few actors pushed their craft to a higher level, including Barbara Bradshaw, as a complex short-story writer in Mosaic Theatre’s Collected Stories; Elena Maria Garcia as the conniving tastemaker in Zoetic Stage’s South Beach Babylon; Gregg Weiner and Erin Joy Schmidt as a couple in marriage meltdown in GableStage’s Fifty Words; Schmidt and Ricky Waugh in Mosaic’s Dying City and Chaz Mena and Avi Hoffman as Holocaust survivors sparring over God and faith in GableStage’s The Quarrel.
2. Most daring: GableStage’s Blasted by the late British playwright Sarah Kanefeatured the most fearless acting ensemble. Artistic director Joseph Adler deftly plunged performers Todd Allen Durkin, Betsy Graver and Erik Fabregat and into Kane’s mysterious, hellish representation of the infinitely varied nature of human cruelty. The designers’ depiction was just as artful.
3. South Florida onstage: Playwrights Christopher-Demos Brown and Michael McKeever turned the spotlight on life in a place where it’s hard to top real-life headlines – Demos-Brown in When the Sun Shone Brighter, a Florida Stage world premiere about a Cuban-American Miami mayor contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate; McKeever in South Beach Babylon, the Zoetic Stage Company’s debut at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. .
4. Successes reconnect: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, Tony Award-nominated actor Raúl Esparza and award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney are Miami talents who have had major influence on theater nationally and, for McCraney and Cruz, internationally. Each came back to work at home – Cruz for the world premiere of The Color of Desire at Actors’ Playhouse, Esparza for an electric performance in Babalu at the Arsht Center, and McCraney for a fund-raising evening (built around his acclaimed Brother/Sister Plays) to benefit students at his alma mater, the New World School of the Arts.
5. Broadway brilliance: T Cats A pair of Tony Award-winning, music-driven shows – In the Heights at the Broward Center, Spring Awakening at the Arsht Center – rose above the same old spectacle-driven fare to tell captivating, brilliantly performed stories.