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Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

After a tryout run in Chicago, 34 previews and 746 performances on Broadway, and a tour launch in Buffalo, “On Your Feet!” has finally opened in the place where Cuban-born music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan made their dreams come true: Miami. At Friday’s red carpet opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with the Estefans and their extended family in atte..

Whether the comedy is high or low, performer-writer Steve Martin has been making moviegoers, “Saturday Night Live” fans and theater lovers laugh for more than half a century – hard to believe it’s been that long, but he started early. Martin’s way with both cerebral jokes and physical comedy is abundantly on display in “The Underpants,” his 2002 adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s once-ban..

Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” begins as a wary conversation between two strangers: Rick, a white male convict awaiting a likely death sentence, and Gloria, a black female historian and college professor. For 90 minutes, the two talk. She probes; he explains and justifies and slowly paints a picture of a man-made Seventh Circle of Hell. By the time the play ends, the audience ..

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ award-winning play “An Octoroon” layers an antebellum melodrama with 21st-century parlance and perspective. The result is an innovative play-within-a-play that skillfully reminds us of slavery’s horrible past and its ever-present legacy. Area Stage Company’s production, thoughtfully directed by John Rodaz, brings together a talented cast to ensure this melodra..

Review: The Duality and Sexuality of ‘HOST’


Photo: Pioneer Winter and Alberto Pena Jr.; photo: Mitchell Zachs.
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In HOST, the latest project by Pioneer Winter and Jared Sharon, two separate performances occurred. A simple, bare Styrofoam wall was constructed right down the middle of the stage in parallel to the audience. On any given night, audiences could see only one of the performances based on where they were sitting. The other was out of sight, visible only to the other half of the audience.

For its apparent simplicity, the wall created some rich dynamics. Most importantly, sound travelled easily across the wall even though sight was restricted. The result was a partial awareness of the other side, often a seemingly forbidden form of participation, like an audio voyeurism. Conceptually, the wall evoked a seedy motel or some other hook-up spot where sexuality can barely be kept private.

Vocalizations and audible strikes with each others’ bodies or the floor were built into the choreography. Nobody spoke, exactly, but they grunted, sang, clicked, among other amorphous communications. In many cases, the effect was some expression of manipulation, violence, or sexual ecstasy. Sometimes the meanings of the sounds were confused or mixed, depending on where one was sitting and what visual information was available. What sounds like orgasm from one side of the wall might be seen actually as a form of agony, with the performer writhing in isolation on the floor. Such play with perception and meaning was clearly deliberate.

The characters in HOST were fairly simplified “types” set in opposition or dynamic relationship to each other. On one side was a dominant/submissive pair, almost a caricature of manipulation and control. On the other side was a trio, including an insatiably affectionate pleasure seeker plus two others who connected and separated in various combinations. In this case, with an all-male cast, homosexuality was front and center. The sexual nature of the characters was foregrounded, as in much of Winter and Sharon’s work.

Overall the wall and its divisions metaphorically stood for separation between internal/external selves, private/public acts, and self/other. HOST implies that from any one position, literally or figuratively, it is almost impossible to know what lies outside or beyond.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of HOST was the performers’ often unconventional physicality and the way each embodied movement. Dario Gonzales, the insatiable character on the trio side of the wall, is starkly thin. When he was stripped almost bare at the end of the show, he looked hungry and impoverished in all senses. On the duo side of the wall, Alberto Pena Jr. was the controlled. His dance training was evident in beautiful leaps and poses, but his slightly heavier body suggested a sense of insecurity or weakness that was exploited by the dominant character played by Winter. While neither Gonzales or Pena Jr. would appear oddly proportioned on the street, the dance stage is a place where nearly perfect bodies are more the norm (for better or worse). Winter used this to his advantage.

The performers physical eccentricities were paired with focused types of movement and vocalization to fully articulate each character type with some depth. Further, the movement did not feel artificial or forced, but rather as though each performer had internalized his character and was acting and moving from inside his role.

This may well be a product of the creative process Winter used to create HOST. He has said recently that he prefers not to use mimicry with dancers repeating set sequences. Instead, he has chosen to work more improvisationally, giving the performers loose instructions or physical challenges and allowing them to choose what that might look like. In the final product, each character has a way of moving that seems to belong only to him. Yet a high level of choreographic vision is evident in the way that all five characters, in the duo and trio, were integrated into a whole.

 


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About The writer

Cathering Hollingsworth is a dance critic and dancer

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About the Writer

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