Nowadays, it’s tough not to feel worried, paranoid or in need of some escapist relief from the steady flow of oh-no-he-didn’t news out of Washington.
Miami playwright Theo Reyna feels your pain. His response is “Firemen Are Rarely Necessary,” a jet-black satire now getting its Mad Cat Theatre Company world premiere at Miami Theater Center’s Sand Box.
The play takes intricately aimed pot shots at a host of targets: the Tweeter in Chief and his progeny, Florida’s pro-business governor, the pushback on climate change, toleration of environmental damage, profitable collusion between government and private enterprise, the state’s vanishing film and television industry.
Yes, that’s a lot of ground (and sea level rise) to cover in a piece running under two hours including intermission. But for anyone who, like Reyna, is a South Floridian peering into a future that looks like a gathering storm, “Firemen” will resonate.
Director Paul Tei and his creative Mad Cat collaborators are again forging original work aimed at a 21st century audience accustomed to the sensory bombardment of on-demand video, music and more. Though it’s a play that moves back and forth in time, “Firemen” incorporates original post-apocalyptic video that ominously kicks the piece off.
The play centers on the travails of Dr. Mara Lowe-Cumbre (Deborah L. Sherman), a senior research fellow at the Florida State Center for Climate Studies.
In a speech to the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, she warns that excess nitrogen and phosphorous in toxic wastewater – predominantly from sugar refineries, chicken farms and paper mills – is eroding the limestone bedrock underneath the state’s thin layer of sandy soil.
And she dares to utter the banned term “climate change” (a phrase actually prohibited in official state communications under Gov. Rick Scott), whereupon a mysterious man named Jay Goldwater (Jordon Armstrong) shows up to fire her and confiscate all of her state-funded research.
Mara has trouble at home, too. Her live-in boyfriend Rich (Armstrong again) is an actor consumed with his audition for a made-in-Florida series called “The Swamp.” Mara, who is enough older (though not quite cougar-like) that Rich calls her “Mama,” has little to no interest in his career. Nor does her young narcissist give a hoot about hers. Why these two ever were or still are together is a dramaturgical issue that Reyna needs to solve.
The chief evildoer in “Firemen” is simply called The Governor (Noah Levine), though lest anyone mistake who this governor is, the actor has shaved his head and late in the play is derisively called “Sick Rot.”
With his right-hand woman The Lawyer (Maha McCain), the Governor has devised a plot to hurry the sinking of the state so that all that will remain is a series of Keys-like islands upon which the rich can thrive. One of those developers is a certain president, who sends his party-on son Brody (Armstrong, playing an amalgam of Trumpian offspring) to seal a deal.
All the Governor needs is a hurricane, which will distribute the toxic waste faster, and Mother Nature obliges with the first-in-history Category 11 storm Hurricane Marco, which zig-zags its way up the state, soon leaving almost nothing that isn’t under water. Mara is, justifiably, afraid for her life – until she is at last ushered into the presence of the Governor, a scheming lunatic no longer tethered to his twisted version of reality.
Befitting such a chilling-if-amusing cautionary tale, the set and lighting by designer David Nail sets up an environment in which darkness predominates. Sound designer Matt Corey supplies the freight-train roar of the hurricane, a manatee’s unnatural cry and the other signals of nature run amok. Costume designer Karelle Levy supplies outfits as different as a traditional (though pink) business suit for McCain as the administrator of Miami’s Office of Environmental Protection to found-fashion chic for Mara as she journeys from what once was Miami to waterlogged Tampa. The film of on-the-run Mara’s secret interview is by Ted Chambers and Tei.
Tonally, the performances range from earnest (Sherman’s smart, courageous Mara) to crazed (Levine’s raging Governor, who articulates far better than Scott) to versatile satire (McCain in five roles, Armstrong in four). Reyna and Tei want those differences, but the play might sting more effectively if Sherman employed some sly humor and Levine pulled back to become merely calculating now and then.
As with most new plays, “Firemen” is a piece with virtues and flaws. Further work on the Mara-Rich relationship might help. Scuttling the whole film-TV tax incentives thread would keep the focus more squarely on manipulated climate change and government-business collusion. Nature-as-avenger abruptly ends the play, but surely something more powerful is lurking in Reyna’s considerable imagination.
‘Firemen Are Rarely Necessary’ by Theo Reyna, Mad Cat Theatre Company production in the SandBox at Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.; 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, through July 16.Cost:$30 (students, seniors and industry tickets $15, Thursday and Sunday only); 305-751-9550, www.mtcmiami.org or www.madcattheatre.org.
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..
It’s easy to believe the only excitement Miami offers in September are the dire warnings from the weather service about the approach of yet another tropical storm. However, dance lovers in Mi..
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..
The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..
Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..
From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..
Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and..
Revivals are hot on Broadway these days with “CATS”and “Hello, Dolly!“once again gracing the Great White Way. There is a certain nostalgia in taking a second or even third viewing of a belove..
What happens when urban dance style meets classical music? We’ll find out when Brooklyn-based hip-hop dance troupe Decadancetheater takes the stage, backed by Miami’s own experimental classic..
“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..
If even a modicum of redemption can be forged from the hellish after-effects of gun violence, we must listen to the communities most affected by the violence. To this end, “Trigger,” a hip-ho..
Celebrating 35 years is an amazing achievement for any dance company in Miami, but especially one founded in a decade better known for its ties to drugs than to the arts. Momentum Dance Compa..
For Tigertail Productions, April is the month of fire. Like their WATER Festival in 2016, this month’s FIRE Festival celebrates a single element in multiple art forms, including dance, visual..
During the month of April the organizers of the seventh iteration of the O Miami Poetry Festival intend every resident of Miami Dade county to encounter a poem or – even better – write one! An..
As the “home-grown” sweetheart of Miami City Ballet, Patricia Delgado is having her final performances this season before leaving the city and the company she loves to move to New York City.H..
Even people who can’t find Argentina on a map and believe tangos only happen in Paris know La Cumparsita’s iconic four beat opening. Like a bar’s last call, La Cumparsita tells tango dancers ..
Miami City Ballet will conclude its season this week with a rich selection of repertory pieces: two from Balanchine, in very expressive but distinct modes, and one from modern-dance master Pa..
You might expect something a tad unusual from a jazz band comprised of Bulgarians and Cubans that’s led by the principal percussionist of the Miami Symphony Orchestra. And that’s what you’ll ..
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...
Singer-songwriter Tiago Iorc may have been one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets, but the word is getting out. Fresh from appearances in New York, Boston and Orlando, Iorc makes his South Flo..
Gustavo Matamoros’ beard has gone gray, but his passionate promotion of listening as a way of engaging the world remains fresh.Whether bats in the Everglades, shrimp in Biscayne Bay or the no..
Just about now, even as the unsuspecting may be lounging at the beach, classical music is thundering forth in Miami. Our town’s annual eight week Miami Music Festival has begun with its offer..
Talk of weddings can quickly split a friendly gathering into camps of pro and con. Those on the pro side retell the moment when the crying six-year-old ring bearer, stunned by the attention o..
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..
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..
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..