Dying City: Still-Relevant Wartime Drama

Christian Vandepas as identical twins Peter and Craig, and Valentina Izarra as Kelly.
Ground Up and Rising, the minimalist Miami theater company, is still at war. Two months after its production of Bill Cain's 9 Circles dramatized the hellish fallout of an American soldier's unspeakable war crimes in Iraq, the company remains ensconced in the psychological shrapnel of combat.

This weekend, Ground Up opens Dying City, Christopher Shinn's time-jumping domestic drama from 2006. It begins with war widow Kelly (Valentina Izarra) receiving a surprise visit from Peter, the identical twin brother of her late husband, Craig, who committed suicide under mysterious circumstances (both brothers are played by Christian Vandepas). Their uncomfortable discussions trigger flashbacks to Kelly's final night with Craig. As past and present commingle, defenses fall, secrets are unearthed, and the horrific, transformative nature of war is scrutinized. (As usual, audiences can attend free outdoor preview performances of Dying City this weekend at Miami Beach Botanical Garden before the show transfers to its indoor home at Artistic Vibes.)

See also: In 9 Circles, a Criminal Soldier Heads for Hell

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Freewheeling Encounters With Miami's Past: Take a Bike Tour With Julia Tuttle

Miami may be known for many things, but history isn't always foremost among them.

Oh sure, there's the ancient Tequesta ruins squeezed beneath a rare stretch of untilled land adjacent to downtown, and the Freedom Tower, which serves as our complement to Ellis Island. We can boast an array of iconic buildings, from Vizcaya and the Biltmore to Overtown's Lyric Theater and the art deco curiosities of South Beach. Then there's the pioneers that inspire retro reflection, people like Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, George Merrick, and James Deering, larger than life individuals who helped lay the foundation for what would eventually become our world class destination.

That ought to be proof enough of our own worthy back story of sorts, even if that tale is barely a hundred years old. Even so, Miami's cutting-edge reputation and continuing urban sprawl make unsurprising that people tend to overlook our legacy.

See also: Miami Icons: Vote Now For Your Favorite Miami Landmark!

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Florida Burlesque Festival To Bring International Striptease Artists to South Florida (NSFW)

Photo by Ian Witlen
Burlesque is not quite like your typical stripping. It's more performance art done scantily clad and heavy on the sex appeal. So, like, classy strippers who keep some clothes on.

Though modern audiences often associate burlesque with hot ladies like Bettie Page, Dita Von Teese, and sadly, the movie Burlesque starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, the art form has origins in Vaudeville variety shows dating back hundreds of years. Local burlesque performer Bambi La Fleur will bring both sexy and humor back with the Florida Burlesque Festival next month.

See also: Circ X Seeks A "Kickstart" To Make Regular Burlesque Show At Fillmore A Reality

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On Your Feet, Gloria and Emilio Estefan's Broadway Musical, Seeks Performers

Categories: Theater

Are you an expert at the "Conga"? Have you ever successfully turned the beat around? Does it seem like the rhythm is on a constant mission to get you?

If so, you're a natural for On Your Feet, the musical based on the life of Miami superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio.

The production, scheduled to begin its Broadway run in November, will hold two casting calls -- one in New York City (obviously), and the other at the Adrienne Arsht Center this September. So while the show itself may have given the Magic City the snub -- what, they couldn't preview the Estefans' Miami story right here in Miami? -- locals will have the chance to bring some South Florida flavor to the Great White Way.

See also: Gloria Estefan Preps Autobiographical Broadway Show, On Your Feet! for 2015

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Centralia, Mad Cat's Latest Tragicomedy, Struggles to Find Its Balance

Karelle Levy
The real-life mining community of Centralia, Pennsylvania, has been devastated by an underground coal fire since the early '60s. The monoxide-laden disaster has polluted the town's air and prompted a massive government-funded relocation of its citizenry. But a few defiant souls remain living in their hometown--fewer than 10, currently--and their stories inspired Centralia, an offbeat play-cum-variety show developed by Europe's Superbolt Theatre and enjoying its U.S. premiere courtesy of Mad Cat Theatre Company.

Centralia is structured as an amateur theater piece staged by Centralia's three remaining inhabitants, who have decided to tell their stories--and their town's story--through the performing arts, integrating dance, music, humor, and puppet theatre. There isn't much plot to speak of; Centralia is an episodic meander divided into more than a dozen chapters, some of them illuminating different facets of Centralian life while others struggle to find their purpose.

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Mad Cat Theatre's Centralia: From Fire to Comedy

Categories: Theater

Karelle Levy
Triple threats Troy Davidson (left), Theo Reyna, and Bonnie Sherman.
There is a place called Centralia, whose citizens are called Centralians. It is not the product of a science-fiction writer's imagination. It is an actual American town, but in 2002 this borough in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, had lost so many residents that the U.S. Postal Service revoked its zip code.

The reason for the town's desolation is all too familiar. Centralia was primarily a mining town, and back in 1962 a coal fire erupted underground. Its effects percolated up to Centralia's 1,000-plus residents nearly two decades later, when a 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole, literally reopening the issue. A few years later, Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts, and Centralia's population began dwindling. By 2013, eight residents called the town home. They were surrounded by ghosts and coal ash.

Who are these hangers-on, and why do they insist on remaining in an environmental blight? Moreover, what kind of theater are they into? Is Sondheim, Shakespeare, or Brecht more their thing?

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Isabella Rossellini Will Stage "Green Pornos" Live at the Fillmore Miami Beach

Isabella Rossellini is bringing her quirky nature lectures focused on the sexual habits of animals she calls "Green Pornos" to Miami Beach.

In her shorts, which began online for the Sundance Channel, the former-model-turned-actress blends deep insights on nature with a cheeky humor and a lo-fi Michel Gondry aesthetic. They are both laugh-out-loud ridiculous but still profoundly ecologically consciousness with a dash of penetrating poetry. She's like Werner Herzog with a sense of humor.

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H2Ombre: Arsht Offers Experiential Theater at Its Strangest and Wettest

Alejandro Ferrer
The liquid onslaught poured forth long before audiences entered the Arsht Center for H2Ombre this past weekend. Torrential rains slowed the flow of spectators into this undeniably unique prooduction. But they finally arrived to find a combination platter that's equal parts rave, 3D movie, and modern dance show.

After passing through the so-called "Bubble Lounge" offering specialty drinks, audiences entered an unfamiliar Ziff Opera House where most of the chairs have been removed. Theatergoers were split between an open dance floor and a VIP area one level up.

During the show, all notions of traditional theater decorum disappear. On opening night, many attendees shot smartphone videos, waved rainbow-colored glow sticks they received upon entry, and donned neon green plastic glasses frames that rendered everything slightly trippy. Servers interrupted the show once to take drink orders, and again to make customers pay, which was distracting--less like a night at the theater than a night at the Improv. Then again, patrons could also wander the two rooms of H2Ombre at will, which proved unusually liberating. Audience interaction and freedom is central to the show's conceit, and so is commerce: You exit through a gift kiosk.

See also: H2Ombre at the Arsht Center: A Waterlogged Theater Experience Like No Other

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Mid-Life 2 at Actors' Playhouse Preaches to the Aging Choir

Categories: Theater

courtesy of Actors' Playhouse
The cast of "Mid-Life 2!": Sufficiently muddled and befuddled
There's likely no nicer stage on which to present a play than the Balcony Theatre at the Actors' Playhouse on Miracle Mile. It purveys a sense of both intimacy and expanse, thanks to ample seating and a stage that allows for any number of up-close possibilities. It's also been home to some of the liveliest and most topical productions Actors' Playhouse has ever offered, among them, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, Menopause the Musical, and Rated P for Parenthood. Granted, we're not talking weighty artistic fare here, or any abundance of gravitas or philosophical reflection. But if all you're after is a few easy laughs, combined with a little mirth and merriment, then this is your place to be.

The latest offering in that upstairs venue is the world premiere of Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues), a sequel of sorts to the first Mid-Life musical the theater staged some six years ago. This time around, Actors' Playhouse is taking an active role in developing the show for further stagings around the nation, including, hopefully, an eventual Off Broadway run. Acting as a producing partner is a significant development for any regional theater, particularly Actors' Playhouse, which has currently assumed the mantle of a major player over the last ten years.

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H2Ombre at the Arsht Center: A Waterlogged Theater Experience Like No Other

Categories: Theater

Photo by Alejandro Ferrer
The Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House is about to get wet. Very wet. The sort of wet that if the water were the result of natural causes, it would require extra flood insurance.

Nightly Wednesdays through Sundays -- and three times Saturdays -- more than 6,000 gallons of water will be expended on every performance of H2Ombre, an immersive theatrical experience in the vein of previous Miami hits Fuerza Bruta and The Donkey Show. The agua will gush from the stage like newly struck oil and shoot from the bodies and hands of the performers, who wield the element with the precision of superheroes exercising their special powers. The actors become human sprinkler systems, artfully dousing anything in sight and drawing their material from a tank installed beneath the stage (the water is recycled every show).

But beyond the liquid dazzle lies a deeper message about the nature of creativity.

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