Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive.
Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre has a mood-restoring holiday package called Winter Shorts awaiting anyone in need of belly laughs, tender moments or a reminder of the reasons for the season.
Assembled by artistic director Margaret M. Ledford, the program is just the third edition of Winter Shorts (the last was in 2001). Since 1996, the company has built its reputation and a loyal following through its popular Summer Shorts festivals, but the experience is just as delightful at this time of year. In fact, this Winter Shorts is one of the company’s strongest and most satisfying programs to date.
A half-dozen actors at the top of their game provide one of the great pleasures of watching a collection of short plays, as each creates a host of sometimes wildly different characters.
Margot Moreland, for example, plays a pair of Jewish mothers, a harried shopper who can’t believe the lone salesclerk doesn’t speak much English, and a lisping devil who is decidedly not the best little girl in the world. Dave Corey plays three different dads, but he’s also the tallest elf you’ve ever seen. Diana Garle is a Spanish-speaking clerk, a woman with a bad case of the blues on New Year’s Eve, a sardonic aunt, an eccentric and incessantly talkative moviegoer and a new mom to a little guy named Jesus.
Rita Joe is a tough New Yorker, a heartbroken guy’s surprising soulmate, a mom with secrets, a wise “man” and a woman who really does believe in miracles. Jovon Jacobs is a depressed Santa, a stopped-in-time grown man who still believes in St. Nick, a guy reevaluating everything about his life and a percussionist sent away by a controlling first-time grandma. Alex Alvarez is a nervous boyfriend, a Valentine’s Day hater, another wise man and a Tooth Fairy with one divine sense of style.
Winter Shorts kicks off with Staci Swedeen’s “Feliz Navidad,” directed by Vanessa Elise, in which Moreland’s beyond-weary shopper has a last straw moment courtesy of Lourdes (Garle), the clerk with merely un poquito of English.Next is Patrick Gabridge’s “Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” staged by Deborah Kondelik, which features a 30-year-old, living-at-home, Santa-believing guy named Jeffrey (Jacobs). Mom (Rita Joe) and Dad (Corey) have kept the truth about the Jolly Old Soul from Jeffrey his entire life, but when Dad decides to ‘fess up, shocking secrets come spilling out.
In the Kondelik-directed “The Miracle of Chanukah” by Sheri Wilner, a bickering family’s ritual of expressing thanks for “miracles” – generally, just examples of good luck during the past year – takes a turn when son Ryan (Alvarez) brings his girlfriend Leila (Rita Joe) along. Her story of a true miracle, sorrowful but full of beautiful imagery, has an effect on the family, but not the one she anticipates.
Amanda Keating’s “this movie,” staged by Ledford, features two lonely strangers spending Thanksgiving at a movie theater in their Massachusetts hometown. Stuart (Jacobs) is escaping, avoiding his parents at a time when everything in his life seems to be up in the air. Chatty Joanie (Garle) shows up with bags full of food and a determination to engage with the only other person in the theater – which turns out to be a good thing for both of them.
Ledford turns Gina Femia’s “Fly, Baby,” set on New Year’s Eve 2016 as the country is about to enter the Trump era, into a celebration of hope over despair. Ariel (Garle) reaches a breaking point as she sits on the roof of her apartment building, and her pal Miranda (Rita Joe) can’t seem to stop her downward spiral. Then the action freezes, and Santa (Jacobs) and the Tooth Fairy (Alvarez) supply some magic, just in the nick of time.
Ashley Lauren Rogers’ “Becky’s Christmas Wish,” also staged by Ledford, is a perfectly savage little comedy. When an Elf (Corey) appears to tell a delighted kid named Becky (Moreland) that she’ll be granted any wish her heart desires, her giddy choice is a shocker. And no matter how the Elf tries to distract or dissuade her, laser-focused Becky sticks to her guns.
Cassie M. Seinuk’s “Occupy Hallmark,” staged by Ivan Lopez, features Alvarez as Moose, a drunken romantic with a shattered heart. As he rants about Valentine’s Day outside a closed Hallmark store, his childhood friend Salty (Rita Joe) appears.They talk, commiserate and discover there’s someone right for just about anybody.
The program’s pièce de résistance, also staged by Ledford, is Mark Harvey Levine’s “Oy Vey Maria.” Irreverent and hilarious, the play imagines the birth of the baby Jesus as the occasion for a barrage of complaints from Mary’s Jewish mother Ann (Moreland). Featuring the entire cast plus interns, “Oy Vey” is a wildly funny take on the nativity story, anachronistic and crazy and completely delightful.
City Theatre’s designers make Winter Shorts lovely to look at and listen to. Jodi Dellaventura’s adaptable set features oversized snowflakes, packages and candy canes, so the audience feels festive before one word is uttered, and lighting designer Eric Nelson underscores the tone of each play with his beautifully colorful work. Ellis Tillman’s costumes are stylish, smart and witty, and until you’ve seen the tall Alvarez in heels and a tooth-crowned tiara, you haven’t lived. Matt Corey’s sound design, with its varied holiday mood music to link the plays, is a vital part of the Winter Shorts experience.
It’s true that money and time can be in short supply around the holidays. But giving yourself the gift of Winter Shorts is a joyous investment.
City Theatre’s Winter Shorts Festival, Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday (additional performance 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20), through Dec. 23. Cost:$39 to $54. Information: 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.
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..
Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..
Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..
In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..
Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..
In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..
From singers like Joan Baez to poets like Maya Angelou to anonymous knitters of pink pussy hats, creative women have played an essential role in this country as agitators and activists. Likew..
When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) takes the stage this weekend, it will present a program rich in the cultural milieu of Miami. Co-founders Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra i..
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..
People often imagine new artwork is the product of the solitary artist genius slaving away in lonely studios. The South Florida Symphony’s 20th anniversary program foregrounds a different vis..
At an age when many are winding down their working lives, Ignacio Berroa eagerly anticipates a new stage in his career. It would be understandable if the 64-year-old drummer, recognized a..
We know it’s the holiday season when trees light up, menorah candles start to burn, ubiquitous Christmas carols pipe through drugstores, “The Nutcracker” plays on every stage – and in recent ..
Late last year, on Dec. 20, 2016, Romero Britto and Mark Bryn hosted the Great Artists Series Cocktail Reception at the Britto Fine Art Gallery to celebrate the legendary impresaria, Judy Dru..
Everyone remembers a lost weekend, binge reading a novel whose ending had to wait because the body just gave out. No matter how compelling the story somewhere around the 30th hour the brain s..
Globalization has produced many stories —not all inspiring. But having a Pakistani ensemble become a worldwide sensation by playing Paul Desmond’s immortal “Take Five,” which pianist Da..
When the management of New York’s iconic Apollo Theater approached drummer Gregg Field last year about organizing a concert there in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth..
They’ve opened a Chanel fashion show in Havana and been featured in Beyoncé’s visual album for “Lemonade.” The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has danced to their music. Their Florida debu..
There are few artists who have had the impact in their disciplines that guitarist Paco De Lucía had in flamenco. There is a before-and-after De Lucía in flamenco. He expanded the harmonic voc..
El segundo programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) dedicado a los 100 años del nacimiento de Jerome Robbins (1918-1998), el gran coreógrafo norteamericano que triunfó ..
2017 fue un buen año para la danza en Miami. El Flamenco Festival nos permitió volver a ver a Jesús Carmona, el Internacional Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) sobrevivió al huracán Irma, Dance..
El Miami City Ballet (MCB) presentó por fin en el Arsht Center la nueva producción de su gran espectáculo navideño, el “Cascanueces” de Tchaikovsky y Balanchine, ahora con diseños origin..
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 ..