A dark, twisting and twisted tale called Broken Snow inaugurates the professional theater program of JCAT at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach. With a decade of community and children’s theater under its belt, the company makes a polished debut into Carbonell Award-eligible productions, even if the subject matter of Ben Andron’s world premiere drama seems unlikely to be to its core audience’s taste.
The 90-minute, intermissionless evening begins shrouded in mystery and remains that way for most of the play’s running time. Long before we get our theatrical bearings, we meet Kris (Avi Hoffman), a fevered, grizzly old man who may actually be dead. Nevertheless, he spins a florid word picture while a much younger man named James (Daniel Llaca) hunts furtively for something in Kris’s house.
James is soon joined by Steven (Nicholas Richberg), who breaks into the house through a window, yet he claims to be an “officer of the law.” Both are apparently intruders and they soon draw guns on each other in a standoff, before acknowledging how much they have in common.
For while they never met previously, James and Steven are half-brothers, sons of sadistic, abusive Kris. Kris is indeed dead, having passed away 11 days earlier, triggering the arrival of his estranged sons. Both are in search of a cigar box, whose contents would shed light on the difficult relationship they each had with their father.
Andron, whose resume includes television animation and movie trailers, is a storyteller of considerable power. We may not understand where he is leading us in Broken Snow, but chances are you will find yourself leaning in, intrigued by his murky saga. Most notable in his writing are the frequent flashbacks, in which each of the sons recall past pivotal encounters with their father.
In those flashbacks, Hoffman is compelling, if maniacal and all but unhinged. A fixture on the South Florida theater scene for more than 20 years, he has often played benign, avuncular characters. Here he excels in a role laced with venality.
Richberg is a cool customer as marginal lawman Steven, but he lets us see the emotional turmoil churning within him. The find of the production is recent New World School graduate Llaca, who hides James’s psychic wounds behind a defensive wall of sarcasm and bravado.
Staged in the round by Michael Andron – the company’s artistic director and, not coincidentally, the playwright’s father – the production is aptly taut and tense. The play’s payoff should be left for the audience to discover, but rest assured that it proves worth the shadowy journey.
BROKEN SNOW, JCAT at Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center, 18900 NE 25th Avenue, North Miami Beach. Through May 21. $30-$40, with discounts for advance purchase. 866-811-4111.
The 1960s were a tumultuous decade marked by assassinations, an unnecessary war on the other side of the world and the rise of the women’s movement. To relive it – or live it for the first time – there is a revue called Beehive, which guides an audience through the period on the sounds of the girl groups and female vocalists who defined those days.
With a talented cast of seven mostly local kick-ass women and a smoking hot live band led by Caryl Fantel, this soundtrack-of-our-lives show takes us from such pre-liberation ditties as “It’s My Party” and “My Boyfriend’s Back” to odes of defiance like “You Don’t Own Me” to the reason you should see this Wick Theatre production, a three-song tribute to raw-throated Janis Joplin.
In between the musical numbers, there is superfluous, often painfully obvious narration, which does not bring back the ’60s half as much as Josieu Jean’s nostalgia-laden projections.
As originally created 30 years ago by Larry Gallagher, this songfest of some three dozen golden oldies spawned several other distaff revues but none proved as poignant as Beehive. The title, of course, refers to the ridiculous Devil’s Tower-shaped hairdos of the era, and it is hard to know which was more difficult to take seriously – the oversized coifs or the songs of willful subjugation.
The cast members all sing well, but not all of them have mastered the art of impersonation which the show calls for. One sequence that does demonstrate that skill celebrates the British Invasion. No, not the arrival of the mop-topped Beatles, but Lulu, Dusty Springfield Clark and Shirley Bassey, as deftly mimicked by Shelley Keelor, Leah Sessa and Trisha Jeffrey.
For that matter, Sarah Amengual does a dead-on Connie Francis (“Where the Boys Are”) and Amitria Fanae is a vocal ringer for Tina Turner (“River Deep Mountain High”), but the show’s singular high point is Mallory Newbrough wailing through a medley of Joplin hits such as “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder).” Chances are your throat will be sore with sympathy pains afterwards.
Co-choreographers Angela Morando-Taylor and Jonathan Van Dyke (who is also the show’s director) put the women through the did-we-really-do-that dance steps of the day, the twist, swim, mashed potato and monkey, to name a few.
It doesn’t hurt that the Wick Theatre’s target audience happens to have grown up in or near the 1960s and probably bring their own emotional connections to this music. It is hard to imagine what younger theatergoers would make of these tunes, but maybe they might discover the joys – silly and otherwise – of what is on their parents’ old 45s.
BEEHIVE, The Wick Theatre, 7901 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through May 14. $75-$80. 561-995-2333.