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.
It is an awe-inspiring experience to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers perform. They are well trained dancers, athletes and artists. Not often known is that some of the dance..
Back for an 8th season in Miami, the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater packs the house every year. With Liberty City hometown hero Robert Battle in his fifth year, we have many rea..
Awash in sunlight, around 50 women stand in a circle on the rooftop performance space of Casa Gaia in Old Havana, Cuba, as part of a belly-dance festival. Biodanza facilitator Karen Rodríguez..
Choreographer Jeanguy Saintus works primarily from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but his creative work has global appeal. He is a pioneering artist who blends Haiti’s traditional music and dance alo..
New life for a legacy ballet—a veritable choreographer-magnet—created a great buzz about Miami City Ballet’s third program this season. But at the Arsht Center for the Performing ..
Who doesn’t delight in fairies? Miami City Ballet, for the success of its third program of the season, is certainly banking on one. And, instead of wielding a magic wand, she comes eager to p..
Transgendered performance artist Scott Turner Schofield is a collector of stories. Growing up in the South, the tales that were told about the gay and trans community were the ugliest kind of..
The Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is giving experimental dancer-choreographer Lazaro Godoy the opportunity to interweave his visual arts and performance passions in ArMOUR, a multimedi..
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet artistic director Tom Mossbrucker and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty have thrilled audiences world wide with stimulating and exciting performances, and Miam..
The future came a long time ago. That impression arose in two forward-pointing yet decades-old company premieres on Miami City Ballet’s second program of the season. In the opening performanc..
Tigertail’s ScreenDance Miami festival is now in its fourth year. One of the few festivals in the country dedicated solely to movement for film and video, ScreenDance aims high. The goal: a f..
The white walls and well-trod floor of a light-pierced studio at Miami City Ballet enclose a charmed space—a field of incalculable energy—as sets of coupled dancers rehearse, in q..
Myth has it that a Cuban who doesn’t dance is a rare creature. Like the endangered Florida panther, you could live an entire lifetime without ever sighting one. “We come from a dancing island..
Chorographer and educator Daniel Lewis has only taken two weeks’ vacation since he retired as the Dean of the Dance Department at New World School of the Arts five years ago. “Even then, I wo..
Never at a loss for words, artistic director Peter Londondescribes what has compelled him to undertake two powerhouse pieces of music for his newest performance venture of the Peter London Gl..
What happens to old dances? Do they slowly disappear as choreographers and dancers move on to other projects? This may well be the case unless an effort is made to revive the piece-- reconstr..
Miami-based choreographer Ana Mendez has been producing original and accomplished work in Miami for years. This December, she is closing out 2016 with a Grass Stains commissioned work set at ..
Blessed by good parentage and nurturing support, a hale and hearty ballet company has just been born in South Florida. Under the direction of Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Gue..
Tango, one of the most democratic forms of music and dance, grew out of the diverse working class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s. The rich blending of different cultures mixe..
Seattle-based choreographer Pat Graney started working on her newest project Girl Gods in 2012. It is the second installment of a triptych that began with her 2008 project House of Mind. Yet ..
Jose Limon’s (1908- 1972) vision still endures and the company he founded is now in its 70th year -- a tribute to the man and the artist, and those who believe in his gifts. He did not set ou..
Choreographer Michael Clark's soundscapes aren't the usual -- he uses the music of the punk poets David Bowie and Patti Smith and early 20th century avant-garde French composer Erik Satie. He..
Flamenco performer Francisco Hidalgo, whose surname means “nobleman,” brought a bygone era of dignity and grace to life on the stage of the Miami-Dade County Auditorium in early November, in ..
I first saw the flamenco dancer Celia Fonta perform with her husband, Spanish guitarist and singer, Paco, some 20 years ago at Café Miro, a small Spanish tapas bar on Espanola Way in South B..
For many people it’s hard to imagine Miami without a vibrant art scene, but in 1987 Miami was just beginning its journey towards becoming a major hub for the arts, and New World School of the..
Silencio. Silence. In the words of choreographer and flamenco artist Francisco Hidalgo “dance rests on the beats of silence.” Los Silencios del Baile is making its U.S. and world preview this..
Reflecting on the brutal treatment she receives at the hands of Juliana Triviño, who plays her torturer in the October 28 Alma Dance Theater (ADT) production of “Cask,” fellow principal danc..
It is difficult to describe duende. Far from elf or goblin, in its literal translation from Spanish, it is the war of emotions being fought in our groin as we experience a work of art. Duende..
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..
La música tiende puentes, y por más de media década ya, dos entidades artístico culturales del sur de la Florida, FUNDarte (http://fundarte.us/fundarte_event.php?id=221) y Miami Light Project..
La colaboración del pianista cubano de jazz Gonzalo Rubalcaba y la cantaora flamenca española Esperanza Fernández junta a dos artistas de primera línea en sus respectivos géneros sin miedo d..