Womanizer, Bus Driver, Doper, Zen Teacher -- Teo Castellanos' Life Is in His Plays

Categories: Theater

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Photo by Ian Witlen
On the second day of eighth grade in 1975, Teo Castellanos, a runty Puerto Rican kid in shiny new Pro-Keds, nervously scanned the hallways of Carol City Junior High between classes, on the lookout for his nemesis. The year before, a much bigger kid had approached from behind in drama class, swung his forearm around Castellanos' neck in a chokehold, and squeezed until he blacked out.

Over the summer, Castellanos had resolved to toughen up. His older brother advised him to fight to the end, no matter what. Castellanos vowed that he would.

Suddenly, in the crowded hallway, Castellanos spotted the nemesis, who immediately yanked his hair.

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Miracle on South Division Street: A Fine Cast Translates Middling Holiday Humor

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Actors' Playhouse has an identity crisis. How else do you explain the emotional whiplash induced by its programming every year? This is a theater torn between cutting-edge drama and milquetoast comedy, between shows that push its audience in new directions and ones that reward passive complacency.

Two seasons ago, it followed the powerful one-two punch of Other Desert Cities and In the Heights with the limp slapstick and pandering populism, respectively, of The Fox on the Fairway and Rated P... for Parenthood; last season, the cerebral and literary Scott & Hem in the Garden of Allah paved the way toward another doggedly unchallenging comedy potpourri, Mid-Life 2 (The Crisis Continues).

See also: The Nutcracker Makes Its Way Around Miami's Ballets

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Broadway Returns to Cuba With Spanish-Language Production of Rent

Categories: Theater

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Photo by Marcin Wichary | Flickr CC
Jonathan Larson's beloved musical Rent is headed to Cuba.

Deadspin reports the Spanish-language production will be produced by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment in partnership with the Cuban National Council of Performing Arts. Nederlander says it's the first Broadway musical with a full cast, musicians and first-class production elements produced in Cuba in over 50 years. The show, which will have a three-month run, will open Christmas Eve, according to Robert Nederlander Jr.

See also: Cuba Out of Cuba: "Keeping It Alive For Future Generations"

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Bad Jews at GableStage: Identify, If You Dare, With This Acrid Dramedy

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Photo by George Schiavone
Playwright Joshua Harmon may or may not have been thinking of No Exit when he wrote his acrid dramedy Bad Jews. But after seeing the riveting new production of Harmon's play at GableStage, Sartre's metaphysical masterpiece seems like a touchstone in at least one sense: It depicts a handful of tortured souls, trapped and bickering in a prison of their making, with no resolution on the horizon. Hell is other Jews.

The infernal setting, in this case, is a studio apartment on the Upper West Side, a property so privileged that, as two characters point out, "You can see the Hudson River from the bathroom!" A pullout sofa and two air mattresses of varying quality are spread along the carpet of the space, a single person's sprawl converted into a cramped barracks for four.

This is where the religiously observant Daphna Feygenbaum (Natalia Coego) and two of her cousins -- the loose-canon atheist Liam (David Rosenberg) and the quiet doormat Jonah (Mark Della Ventura) -- will spend a fraught night on the day of their grandfather's funeral, arguing chiefly over the possession of a Jewish family heirloom. Daphna wants it because she's the most fervent believer of them all, a kosher-keeping, Hebrew-speaking carrier of the torch, with a boyfriend waiting for her in Israel. Liam has his own designs on the sacred amulet, which becomes all the more infuriating to Daphna because they involve his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Lexi Langs), whom he has brought along uninvited.

See also: Mothers and Sons at GableStage: Theater as Gestalt Therapy

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South Florida Theatre Community Honors Passing of Local Actress with Scholarship Fund

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Photo by Marlena Skrobe
Laura Ruchala (foreground) with Bree-Anna Obst in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
It was Shakespeare who once said "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." That pronunciation also implies that it boasts both triumphs and tragedies. Bree-Anna Obst can relate to philosophy as well as to the bard that implied it in the first place. Obst, part of the theater department at Miami Children's Museum, lost her friend and fellow thespian Laura Ruchala this past August to a brain aneurysm.

"Laura was a Shakespeare enthusiast, a budding director, and an incredible actress, whose performance career spanned three counties, Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach," Obst recalls. "Laura was determined to keep the Bard alive in South Florida, and so it is my hope that this community can contribute to Laura's dreams and goals, despite her not being here to pursue them herself."

To that end, Obst has organized a cabaret event she's named "A Night For Her: A South Florida Theatre Cabaret Celebrating Laura Ruchala." The event, slated for November 15, will feature members of the South Florida Theatre community as part of a celebration that will help realize Ruchala's dream to share Shakespeare's genius with other actresses and enthusiasts.

See also: Microtheater Brings Spanish Theater Tradition to Miami (Video)

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Backyard Barbecues Make a Combustible Setting in Zoetic Stage's Neighborly Dramedy

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Justin Namon
Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs." -- Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone

In 21st-century America, we don't know who our neighbors are. Property lines loom large, tenants and homeowners are more reclusive than ever, and technology has created bubbles of self-absorption and self-sufficiency around every one of us. The thought of ringing the adjacent doorbell to borrow a cup of sugar is an alien concept; why talk to a stranger when you can use an app to deliver what you need?

Yet we're closer to these people, geographically, than anyone outside our immediate family. Playwright Lisa D'Amour penned her 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist Detroit with this theme in mind, envisioning two pairs of next-door neighbors who, for varied motivations, opt to communicate rather than isolate -- a decision that proves both revelatory and perilous.

See also: Hedda Gabler at Miami Theater Center: A Bold, Bloodless Reimagining

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Rodgers and Hammerstein's Tony Award-Winning Cinderella Is Modern Girl-Power Magic

Categories: Theater

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Photo by Carol Rosegg
Kecia Lewis and Paige Faure in the National Tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.
"I just wish I was doing something more important with my life."

No, that's not something our ex said. That's the very first thing Prince Charming says in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, now performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Quite obviously, this is not the Disney princess story of memory. It's not like the original bloody Brothers Grimm fairy tale, either. In fact, it's a completely modern retelling that brings a fairy godmother's fanciful magic to life while simultaneously teaching that you don't need a fairy godmother to change the world.

See also: Make Way for Broadway: Nostalgia, Laughs, and Glamour Pack the Arsht's New Season

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Hedda Gabler at Miami Theater Center: A Bold, Bloodless Reimagining

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Photo by Mitchell Zachs
Paul Tei, Jessica Farr, and Gregg Weiner of Hedda Gabler
Miami Theater Center's Hedda Gabler opens in a way no other versions of Henrik Ibsen's 19th-century classic ever have. In a wordless prologue, with semitranslucent curtains shrouding the audience's view, the title character (Jessica Farr) slinks down the elegant staircase of her new home, a strikingly modern, antiseptically white villa that looks both alien and Design District-chic. Bored -- because Hedda Gabler is nothing if not bored -- she briefly rests her head on an electric keyboard (standing in for the piano in Ibsen's 1890 rendering).

Next, she wheels around the room on a Lucite chair, her arms and head flung backward in a gesture of undomesticated restlessness that the play's male landowners would see as an affront to decorum. Then, with a visitor about to enter the room, Hedda's respite is over; she spirits herself upstairs, and Ibsen's words begin.

See also: Everybody Drinks the Same Water: Miami Theater Center's Beautiful, Listless Parable

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Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth Brings Apocalyptic Graphic Novel Alive On Stage

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Courtesy of Target Earth
The time is the 1930s. The place is the wintry mountains of the Alps. You are part of a journalism team investigating a promising lead when BAM! Attack! Your lead is gone -- but a bigger story is looming. You're trapped! Now you are on the run, the literal fate of the planet on your shoulders as you race around the globe and solar system, trying to stop an alien invasion of epic proportions.

Such is the world of Intergalactic Nemesis Target Earth, which makes its South Florida debut Saturday at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, courtesy of Culture Shock Miami.

Created by Jason Nuelander, Intergalactic Nemesis got its start in an Austin coffee house, before turning into a radio drama. A later incarnation saw the work develop into a graphic novel featuring illustrations by Tim Doyle, and it now comes to the stage as a live action graphic novel.

See also: Miami Comic Book Trio to Debut The Agency at Florida Supercon

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Teo Castellanos Returns With 23 Characters in Third Trinity, Directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Categories: Theater

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Photo by Pedro Portal
Teo Castellanos
Inspired by his family's saga, Teo Castellanos weaves a tale of betrayal and fraternal bonds that spans three decades, three brothers, and 23 characters. If tragedy comes in threes then Third Trinity delivers with murder, drugs, violence, car chases, and explosions.

The story's backdrop seems more appropriate for a film rather than a one-man show and in fact, Castellanos started writing it as a screenplay but luckily for theatergoers, paired it down to a 28-page script for stage. With 23 characters, Third Trinity is an ambitious work and exciting culmination of a writer and performer at the height of his creativity.

See also: Tarell Alvin McCraney: Miami-Dade Made

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