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.
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..
Miami Light Project, one of this city’s most vital performing arts organizations, has long been known for convention-bending work from both local and visiting artists. Its current Wynwood per..
Founded in 1988 in Havana, the DanzAbierta company began under the direction of Marianela Boan. Considered a precursor to Cuba’s avant-garde dance movement, the company was known for its expe..
New Yorkers were still dressed for winter in somber coats and dark sweaters as a mixed crowd from socialite types to teenagers with backpacks filed into the red velvet jewel box for the Joyce..
Dancers are movers and water in nature is almost always moving. The National Water Dance performance brought the two together at the historic Deering Estate on Saturday, April 16, as part of ..
Tigertail’s month-long WATER festival is well under way. The festival highlights water’s multiple aspects and roles in human life, and is the first in a four-year project celebrating all fou..
Like most kids, dancer choreographer Brigette Cormier grew up watching television, and as an adult she still enjoys a show or two. However, in her latest dance work, TV NO, she breaks down th..
If Dale Andree could come back as an animal in her next life, she’d be a seal. The National Water Dance founder and artistic director, a self-confessed “water baby,” has a kinship with H20 an..
“All our sweetest hours fly fastest,” said Virgil. He could have been speaking of Momentum’s Spring Concert: Hearts, Heroes, Humans. Time flew as Delma Iles, artistic director of Momentum Dan..
Augusto Soledade Brazzdance has been active in the Miami dance community since Soledade arrived over 10 years ago. His choreographic style has changed over time, as has his cast of dancers. M..
On March 26, FUNDarte, in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Auditorium and Culture Shock Miami, presented Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança’s second annual performance in Miami. The compa..
For most audiences, the creative process is often a mystery -- the months of intricate planning and experimenting are rarely seen, over shadowed by the polished spectacle of opening night. Th..
The idea for a month-long celebration of water first came to Tigertail Productions’ Executive Director and founder Mary Luft over a year ago, as the issues of rising sea-levels and climate ch..
Were those lovers really dancing underwater or did they find a foothold for their rapture in a mossy grotto? Was that damsel, looping around, somehow tangled up in looming seaweed, or did the..
“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” Bette Davis once said. No fun either for caregivers when elderly family members withdraw -- whether to treasured memories or in abject despair. For ..
With 34 years of creating modern dance in Miami, Momentum Dance Company’s Artistic Director and Founder Delma Iles shows no sign of slowing down. The company celebrates their anniversary thi..
The Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011 displaced millions of people, but brought one home. Japanese-born dancer and choreographer Eiko Otake was working on a site spec..
Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança returns to Miami this weekend with their critically acclaimed fusion of hip hop, capoeira and contemporary dance. Presented by FUNDarte and the Miami-Dade C..
Watching Dance Now! Miami’s celebratory tribute to the José Limón Dance Company’s 70th anniversary, it’s clear Limón’s legacy lives on. The Mexico-born Limón was a pioneer in modern dance, wh..
Of the six separate concerts offered during the ninth annual Flamenco Festival Miami, three featuring individual artists stood out, electrifying the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Each o..
As relations between the United States and Cuba begin to thaw, politicians, businesses, artists, and families are clamoring for ways to both connect and reconnect with the island nation and i..
On a warm moonlit night, those who sink their feet in the sand of the South Florida shore might just come upon a supernatural realm, the sparkle on the whitecaps bright emanations from fairie..
The Limón Dance Company celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, having existed more years without its founder than with him. The company’s survival is an homage to the man and his work. J..
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 paralle..
What better way to welcome summer than with a burst of live music? Leave it to the French to come up with the idea. Since 1982, they’ve marked the summer solstice with free concerts and p..
Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade is as tiny as a house sparrow, with a voice as clean and pure as a bell. These delicate qualities belie a fierce inner strength and a steely artistic will. A..
Melissa Aldana is the first woman instrumentalist and the first South American artist to win jazz’s prestigious Thelonius Monk competition. Which distinction is more important to her? Neither..
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..
El festival “Out in the Tropics”, patrocinado por Fundarte en conjunto con el Centro Cultural Español y el Miami Book Fair International, normalmente trae artistas del mundo LGBTQ e hispanoha..
La Gala anual de Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (CCBM) es un evento que esperan con ansiedad los aficionados al ballet en Miami y, sobre todo, los admiradores del estilo cubano. Desde su deb..
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..