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.
Haitian dance company Ayikodans may be based in Port-au-Prince, but the group is one of Miami’s treasures. Endangered by the 2010 earthquake, the company has since been sustained through a pa..
Lourdes Lopez was born in Cuba but grew up in Miami. At 14, she left Miami to study at the School of American Ballet in New York City. Lopez danced with the New York City Ballet for more than..
The Adrienne Arsht Center is celebrating its 10th birthday this season, and it wouldn’t be a party without the presence of Haiti’s premier modern dance company, Ayikodans. A longtime favorite..
Trapped in a shoe store in Buenos Aires during an end-of-world hailstorm in 2001, I gritted it out as ice the size of ball bearings struck the steel roof like shotgun blasts. Later that a..
Is it really accurate to say a body dances across a computer screen if we consider the video we stream is nothing but a neat trick pulled off by lines of code and pixels? In her comments to ..
Writer and performer Kristina Wong (http://kristinawong.com/) has made a career out of fearlessness. She has been a guest commentator for Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Her ..
Dance and film once again collide to create visual and visceral magic during Tigertail Production’s third annual ScreenDance Miami film festival January 21-23. Featuring dance films from all ..
Glenn Edgerton is committed to presenting his audiences with the work of some of the best choreographers today. As Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s artistic director, he feels it’s his job to “..
On opening night at the Arsht Center, Miami City Ballet’s second program of the season seduced the senses and engaged the mind. While the three featured works demanded regard for different mo..
Miami choreographer and dancer Pioneer Winter knows a thing or two about producing a live performance piece that integrates its surroundings in order for the piece to become fully realized. H..
The personal ad promised “sex that could change the world.” “No strings attached,” it continued. So begins Boom, dramatist Peter Sinn Nachrieb’s much lauded theatrical adventure. After a long..
As many fans of Miami City Ballet know, a new addition to this year’s lineup is principal ballerina, Simone Messmer. Recently Artburst had the chance to sit down with Messmer at La Folie café..
I remember the nightmare -- there I was, locked in a row at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater as a six-month old went berserk at the very moment the Joffrey’s Maia Wilkins began the Dance of the ..
Jessica Trujillo is a world champion salsa dancer. Her team, the Omambo Dance Project, won the professional salsa team division at the World Latin Dance Cup last year. But when she called her..
Choreographer Pascal Rioult realizes the timelessness of one of his pieces. It’s a few days after the November attacks in Paris -- Rioult’s birthplace -- and he’s pondering his choreographic ..
When dancer Xiomara Reyes would visit her mother in Miami, she’d rehearse in a studio to keep in shape while on break from her professional life as one of American Ballet Theater’s star balle..
Yes: it’s all a part of the multicultural interpretation of The Nutcracker presented by Ashanti Cultural Arts -- The Christmas Chocolate Nutcracker is a mixture of new and old; gospel music a..
Has life ever felt like being trapped inside an iron maiden, spikes in every direction making relaxing out of the question and even breathing seem a risk? For Liz Ferrer and Charo Oquet, organizer..
With some projections putting significant swathes of South Florida underwater within the next 100 years, MDC Live Arts’ presentation of Holoscenes seems particularly prescient. Taking place o..
Set in the entrance of Untitled, art, Miami Beach is a powdered, coated steel sculpture, Double Arc, by Miami-based Amanda Keeley that intends to evoke the sensation of movement and expansion..
Jessica Lang is inspired by artistic collaborations. Her pieces testify to the transformative power of movement, music and visual composition coming together to create a mesmerizing performan..
Dance Now! Miami will present “Open Stage: Works & Process,” showcasing four of Miami’s emerging choreographers this coming Sunday at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, where the Dance No..
Brooklyn-based sculptor Martha Friedman’s fascination with the body started at an early age. Raised in Detroit by a molecular geneticist father and a mother who returned to school when Friedm..
“Precise” doesn’t begin to describe up-and-coming flamenco sensation Karen Lugo’s dancing. Every line and pose that she strikes seem as carefully calibrated as the inner mechanisms of a Phili..
There is magic in numbers, and three especially conjures up power. Multiply that by 10 and you get the potency of the artistic spell Miami City Ballet has been casting for three decades. The ..
In what has become a Halloween tradition, Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater once again explores Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado and its themes of revenge and humiliation throug..
Zedric Bembry started Live In Color dance company in 1989, while he was still a student at Miami Carol City Senior High School as part of a back up group for local rappers he knew from around..
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..
Despite an end to the “wet foot, dry foot” policy and other changes in the Florida-Cuba dynamic, Global Cuba Fest 2017 will continue to satiate the souls of South Floridians with a month-long..
Guitarist, composer and producer Josemi Carmona embodies the spirit of Nuevo Flamenco. Rooted firmly in tradition, he has proven a restless, curious artist, ignoring the boundaries of genres ..
Following an intense National YoungArts Week, the signature program held annually in Miami, YoungArts is proud to announce their 2017 regional programs that will expand the offerings from New..
Seduced by the jazz in his dad’s music collection, a kid from Perth, Western Australia, takes up the saxophone at age 13. He grows up, moves to the United States and becomes a star. Dreams do..
Half way through his set at the North Beach Bandshell, singerDavid Crosby (http://www.davidcrosby.com/), 75, who has been to a festival or two in his illustrious career, paused between songs..
Florida in February has its own magic: gorgeous light, cooler temperatures, clear skies and soft sea breezes. Now, imagine those breezes carrying the moaning strains of Esperanza Spalding’s b..
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..
El flamenco es una música de fusión. La tradición es de sobrevivencia, de cambio constante y adaptación al lugar y los tiempos. Mientras el sonido puede ser diferente, el espíritu de Nuevo Fl..
La problemática del cambio climático está que arde. Sobre todo en un estado como la Florida, en primera fila para sufrir consecuencias drásticas. Llegar al público con este mensaje e inspirar..