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.
Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly..
It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..
As Art Week approaches, Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater is getting ready to add its distinctive voice, rehearsing for the upcoming performance of “Flowers” at the C..
Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..
Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..
It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..
It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..
A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..
When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..
When Cardi B, with her trademark no-filter attitude, raps in her recent hit “Bodak Yellow” – Now I don’t got to dance/I make money move – she has something to sing about, with her smash hit N..
Despite a packed show schedule, including performing with the Frankfurt Opera in “Rinaldo,” Sarasota native, dancer and choreographer James McGinn had a chance to discuss the upcoming dance-opera ..
Anniversaries usually celebrate the success of a partnership with symbolic gifts of crystal, china, silver and gold. For the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, the company celebrates 20 years of..
The songs are familiar; the love story is also familiar but made fresh in “On Your Feet!,” the musical biography that comes to Miami this week. The narrative of Emilio and Gloria Estefan meet..
Dance lovers in Miami know that for the past two decades the International Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) has made the city in September a magnet for the brightest stars in the world of bal..
Orlando Taquechel, dance critic for two decades at the El Nuevo Herald (and now a contributor to Artburst), will have a book signing and discussion of his new book, “La danza in Miami (1998-..
The name Flamenco conjures the machine-gun snap of heels, arms arched overhead, the flick of red fabric and laser-like glares from beneath the starched black brim of a Cordobes hat. At the ed..
Watching Neri Torres rehearse is a study in focus and concentration. She demonstrates each step with an ease developed from years of immersion in the study and performance of Afro-Cuban ..
Miami-based organization Delou Africa has been the ambassador of African dance and drumming in South Florida for the last 30 years. It started as a performing company, and has since expanded..
Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling..
When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..
With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..
With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..
After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, dancing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijoo is retiring from that company to embark on a new journe..
Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick is a storyteller. Her company Alma Dance Theater brings a particularly female inner world to the stage, through lush and sensual choreography. Nick’s..
Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perf..
May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pr..
One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..
Not everybody who begins a musical career at age three singing in his grandfather’s Pentecostal Church finds his way to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Soloman Howard did in two short decades...
La tradicional temporada de Cascanueces del Miami City Ballet (MCB) tendrá algo nuevo este año. La compañía que dirige Lourdes López ha decidido renovar los diseños de la superproducción que..
El programa que Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) presentó el sábado pasado en su exitoso debut como compañía en residencia del South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) y a solo ..
Hay pocos artistas que han tenido el impacto en sus disciplinas como el guitarrista Paco De Lucía tuvo en flamenco. En este género, hay un antes y después de De Lucía. Expandió el vocabul..
Dance NOW! Miami, la Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO), Miami Dance Futures y la New World School of the Arts (NWSA) colaboraron el fin de semana pasado para presentar la Daniel Lew..
Esta es una gran noticia para el público amante del ballet en Miami. Tras un paréntesis de diez años en los que solo nos visitó de manera esporádica, la Primera Bailarina mexicana Katia Carra..
Solo hay que aplicar el concepto “seis grados de separación” a uno de los artistas que se han presentado en las Galas de Estrellas del Festival Internacional de Ballet de Miami (IBFM por sus ..
El debut de Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) en noviembre del año pasado fué un acontecimiento artístico y un descubrimiento sumamente agradable. Una sola función en el Miami-Dade Cou..
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..