The words that South Florida playwright Michael McKeever has chosen for his intense new play ‘After’ are powerful indeed. They would have to be, since his Zoetic Stage world premiere at Miami’s Arsht Center is a devastating piece about bullying, school violence and the moment when one horrific act destroys two families.
But just as powerful as the words in “After” are the silences, as looks convey judgment or a host of thoughts unspoken.
One wordless sequence late in the play is nearly as unbearable for the audience as it is for the father whose world is shattered by a two-page letter from his ruined, estranged son.
Playing a man roiling with self-doubt, denial and fury, actor Tom Wahl picks up the letter and begins to read, at first fidgeting and looking irritated. Then he transforms, reading silently as words that are never revealed eviscerate him, causing him to cry out, then weep. Director Stuart Meltzer and Wahl take the time to allow that long moment its excruciating, devastating power.
“After” is, in fact, every bit as powerful and accomplished as “Daniel’s Husband,” McKeever’s award-winning play about marriage equality that will have its Off-Broadway premiere in the spring. The playwright’s 25th full-length drama is the work of a man who has learned to expertly combine dashes of humor, topicality, engaging characters and layered storytelling to create deeply impactful theater.
Similarly, Zoetic’s production of “After” is the work of artists at the top of their game.
On the design side, Carbonell Award winner Michael McClain has created a breathtaking set that looks like the elegant upscale living room of a woman obsessed with perfection. The visual eloquence of Rebecca Montero’s lighting design, the character-defining work of costume designer Angelina Esposito and Meltzer’s subtle sound design are of a piece with that dazzling set.
As for the actors, the performers are so in synch with their characters that you might suspect their roles were tailored to their talents – and in part, they were. McKeever was still writing “After” when Mia Matthews and Wahl were cast as Julia and Tate Campbell, occupants of that elegant home; when Jeni Hacker and McKeever were chosen to play Connie and Alan Beckman, parents of a bullied teen; and when Karen Stephens was picked to play Val Wallace, a single mom reluctantly dragged into her friend Julia’s family drama. The playwright had known all of the artists through their work at Zoetic and elsewhere, so in collaboration with director Meltzer, “After” offers a superb example of actors fully, intricately inhabiting their characters.
The 90-minute story they tell is divided into three scenes (or “movements,” as Meltzer calls them) titled “Before,” “During” and “After.”
Initially, the Campbells and Beckmans come together because the Campbells’ son Kyle has sent a threatening text to the Beckmans’ son Matthew, earning Kyle a three-day suspension from the private school both boys attend.Julia wants to make nice and have Kyle apologize to Matthew. Connie will settle for nothing less than the scorched-earth option of Kyle expelled.Thus, a tragedy is set in motion.
In “After,” McKeever artfully explores the intense challenges and conflicting styles of raising kids in a world where bullying – cyber and in-person – is commonplace.He offers a chilling example of how a perceived threat can cause life to shift on a dime and become irrevocably altered.Over the course of the play, he stirs empathy for each character, deepening the audience’s understanding of them through powerful speeches.
Wahl and McKeever effectively play very different guys, Wahl’s Tate being emotionally disengaged from his wife and son, McKeever’s less successful Alan clearly the richer man in terms of his solid relationship with his family.
But it is the work of the play’s women, portraying characters with very different styles of mothering, that elevates and deepens the dramatic power of “After” – Hacker, with her stinging humor and fierce protectiveness as Connie; Matthews, with an obsessiveness born of pain as Julia; and Stephens, whose whip-smart Val is raising two boys just fine on her own, thank you very much.
Some people want nothing more than escapist entertainment when they go to the theater. “After” is for those who want to feel deeply, be thoroughly drawn into the world of a play and find themselves thinking about a work of theatrical art long after the performance ends.
‘After’ by Michael McKeever, Zoetic Stage production in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; regular performances 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 13. Cost:$50 and $55; 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.
One of the highlights of Tigertail’s fall season, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight comes to the Miami stage this weekend. It runs Friday and Saturday, October 14-15 at the Miami Dade County A..
On Sunday, September 18, a small crowd gathered on the beach around 92nd Street and Collins Avenue in Surfside. With the backdrop of a perfectly clear blue sky, sweltering sun, and endless oc..
The fist view of Titus Kaphar’s The Vesper Project at the Lowe Museum of the University of Miami elicits questions: What catastrophe happened here? What awful force created this destruction? ..
For its 31st season Miami City Ballet will serve up a hearty and flavorful dance sandwich. Held together by the bread-and-butter basics of a Romantic heirloom and repertory standards, in the ..
“Of course you can be a prince on stage, but you can be an animal as well? Can you move like a snake, move like a tiger?” With that, a wiry, energized Miao Zong -- guest choreographer with Ar..
When Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts executive director, took the helm at the organization 5 years ago, she revitalized the 26-year-old organization and strengthened its commitment to not only ..
Daniel Lewis and Sheila Womble sit at cafe in Coral Gables. Both are excited to speak on behalf of Arts for Learning, the encompassing and growing organization they are passionate about. ..
On the surface, rising sea levels and dance seem to be worlds apart. Unless you’re Marissa Alma Nick, who grew up in Surfside -- going to the beach and watching such movies as Waterworld and..
Artburst recently sat down with Miami City Ballet dancer, Nathalia Arja, on a Friday afternoon at the MCB studios. Bubbly and relaxed in pale blue leotard and hair drawn tight in a bun, Arja discu..
If there is a place in Miami where original work can get its due – particularly in the children's theater genre – Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is the space. Stephanie Ansin, co-founde..
Siempre Flamenco’s Festival de Cante opened Friday, Sept. 2 at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater to a small but generous audience, who responded warmly to singers Nano de Jerez, Migu..
This September, the International Ballet Festival of Miami celebrates its 21st year. Companies from around the world will converge in Miami, giving local audiences a chance to see top-class b..
DanceAfrica, a celebration of African dance and culture, appears annually in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Last seen in Miami in 1997, the festival returns this year thanks to the ef..
This month, Sophia Michahelles and Alex Kahn from Processional Arts Workshop (PAW) will light up Vizcaya’s grounds with giant fantastical lanterns and moving sculptures. PAW’s experiential an..
It’s perhaps the most exotic dance music to hit Miami in recent memory: contradance -- it’s Americana, the real thing, a far more sophisticated version of the square-dancing you may remember ..
Juan Carlos Lérida’s performance Bailografía, part of the seventh season of the Out in the Tropics festival, is not the story of a man’s trajectory as a flamenco performer over the course of ..
Okay, it may still be a stretch to call Miami the artsy-est city in the United States as some news outlets have proclaimed. But we are no longer that sleepy provincial town, even in summer. ..
Ballet has long held a special place in Cuban communities -- both in Cuba and in Miami. The National Ballet of Cuba has a reputation of being one of the foremost ballet companies in the world..
Imagine, it’s February 7, 2013, and you’re leaving Miami after a month-long visit with family and friends, resuming your dance career in Israel. At MIA, TSA agents repeatedly search and inter..
There aren't many festivals that can boast true diversity in their lineup, but Out in the Tropics has made that its mission and it is arguably one of the best. In its seventh year and pr..
This Thursday, after 13 years of incubation, Miami dancer and filmmaker Tiffany “Hanan” Madera’s documentary Havana Habibi will debut on the big screen. A collaboration between Madera and Bro..
Ilisa Rosal founded Ballet Flamenco La Rosa in 1985 and the company soon cultivated a renowned reputation for presenting flamenco, in all its forms, to local, national and international audie..
Singer and songwriter La Flaka, The Skinny One, aka Jessica Cánovas, was born and raised in Triana, a historic neighborhood of Sevilla, Spain, surrounded by flamenco music and dance. La Flaka..
Joffrey Ballet choreographer, dancer and Hollywood, Fla., native Edward "Eddie" Stierle will return to South Florida with Lacrymosa, performed by Dance Now! Miami this Thursday through Friday..
Whether your interest in flamenco gravitates toward the folkloric, the funky or the just plain fun, Miami’s Centro Cultural Español (CCEMiami)’s spunky FlamenGO series is out to pull you in. ..
This week, Peter London Global Dance Company presents the Second Annual Latin and Caribbean Dance Night at the Coral Gables Museum. As a dancer, choreographer and teacher, London’s background..
Contemporary dance has a way of showing us how harmoniously encompassing art can be. That’s what South Florida’s mixed-ability dance troupe Karen Peterson and Dancers (http://www.karenpeterso..
Project 305 has a simple aim – crowd-source a Miami symphony. For 100 days from January 31 to May 12 New World Symphony, in collaboration with the Knight Foundation and the M.I.T. Media Lab, ..
You hear the word “flamenco” -- what image comes to mind? A guitar? A dark-haired dancer? The color red, a ruffled dress? Did a piano by any chance enter the picture? Perhaps not. Pianist..
Critics on five continents have described her work as “indecent and breathtaking,” or some close variant. One blessed her for always “going too far.” Another stated he would prefer death to m..
Buzzing his lips and shaking his head, Rafael Davila gets ready to rehearse. In the Florida Grand Opera’s cavernous rehearsal hall in Doral, the floor is marked with tape to delineate the roo..
There’s a song James Blood Ulmer sings called “Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher.” If you bring in Mother Blues, along with the family hothead, Rock and Roll, you’ll have a better pi..
Ask about the Miami Sound to 10 people in South Florida and you’ll get 11 different answers. And yet, for more than 20 years, the Spam Allstars, a group founded and anchored by DJ Le Spam (a..
This year’s TransAtlantic Festival features local dance music stars, a Malian guitarist known as “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” and something unique: a Haitian rara band comprised entirely of women...
If the political movement that saw its birth after the November elections is in the market for a composer to set the score for its many marches, Frederic Rzewski might be a strong contender f..
In a combo that promises to be both sublime and rip-roaring, three generations of Cuban and Cuban diaspora musicians come together this Saturday at The Miami-Dade County Auditorium to celebra..
El 11 y 12 de mayo próximo tendrá lugar en el Miami -Dade County Auditorium el estreno en Estados Unidos de Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray(en español,Escrutinio: El mundo se ha ido a la deri..
Para el pianista y compositor cubano Omar Sosa la noción de una cultura global, sin fronteras, no es un concepto abstracto sino un tema personal. En su música, elementos de hip hop y rumba, ..
No hay que viajar a otro país para disfrutar en vivo de la música cubana del momento, la más innovadora, la que le da la vuelta al mundo. Basta con asistir a Global Cuba Fest, aquí mismo, en ..
Nadie como el bailarín y coreógrafo español Antonio Gades para describir el arte que lo hizo internacionalmente famoso cuando vivía: “Un extracto de fuego y de veneno, eso es el flamenco”. ..
Desde Las troyanas de Eurípides hasta “Guernica” de Picasso, o de la canción “Blowing in the Wind” de Bob Dylan al diseño de las gorras rosadas que llevaron miles de mujeres en las protestas ..
En un discurso de 1977, el escritor argentino Jorge Luis Borges desmintió la idea de que la ceguera fuera un mundo de oscuridad cuando describió su propia “modesta ceguera”. Hablaba de ciert..
En su discurso de recibimiento del Premio Nobel, el poeta chileno Pablo Neruda afirmó que el poeta no es un "pequeño dios." De hecho expresó que el mejor poeta “es el hombre que nos entrega e..
En la cultura yoruba, y sobre todo en sus manifestaciones caribeñas como la afrocubana, las historias contadas oralmente por generaciones ocupan un lugar esencial. Esas historias, muchas de e..
En la serie artística Out in the Tropics, la tarima no discrimina, la sensibilidad de los intérpretes es inclusiva y todo público es bienvenido. Producción de la entidad local sin fines d..