by Michael McKeever
Directed by Kate Alexander
Florida Studio Theatre/Keating Mainstage
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota
(941)-366-9000, April 2-May 24, '08

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

One can see why the original title was Melt, because that's what Cuban, Black American, and Jewish families do in contemporary Miami. A city of changes, more often too rapid than not for older residents. It's where seamstress Marta came as a child fleeing the Cuban revolution, had her son Luis-now a successful businessman aiding developers, lost her husband and is about to be lost to cancer, without a hint of grandchildren to come. She resists treatment, though understood and helped by African American nurse Jackson. His sister Adelle, about to receive a rarely given prestigious award for her pro-bono legal work for poor people being made poorer and displaced, will clash with Luis. Nor is Adelle completely happy with her brother. He's living with Leo Chasen, a high school English teacher who's hesitated to tell his father Isaac about the possibility of he and Jackson adopting a son from Latin America. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, Isaac wishes he'd been a bigger success as he was in Cuba. Still, even underemployed, he has come a long way from being forbidden as a Jew to use the beaches. He cherishes memories of his rebel of a wife. Because she up and left him and young Leo, their son doesn't recall her. How will the oldsters meet the challenges ahead? Will the young people cherish their heritages yet adapt to present realities and also be forces for positive change? Playwright Michael McKeever resists complexities in exploring motives and actions of the young Miamians. He does, though, conclude the lives of parents Marta and Isaac in ways bittersweet and sweetly memorable. (To his credit, even though he brings them together in one scene, he doesn't have them slip contrivedly into more than a nodding acquaintance.)

Smoothly Kate Alexander never draws attention to shifts between direct address to the audience and dramatized scenes. She also could not have better cast and directed her actors. Marina Re is so appealing as spunky Marta that one is sorry whenever she leaves the stage. David Perez-Ribada really seems like her son. As Isaac, Jon Kohler touchingly makes the transition from one mired in memories to a vacant-eyed but still lovingly connected father. Kenajuan Bentley never seems to be acting as Jackson, whether showing love for his sister (striking, poised Laquayva Anthony) or Leo. Both men carried off their parts as gay men with dignity and normality. The difficulties come from the problems in the young people's lives not being more complexly explored, especially the topics of gay adoption and, in the case of Adelle, her personal life and career outside of her concerns with the problems of Overtown. Since the drama is not a heavy one and has touches of humor, it's easy to like what one sees and not want to probe deeper into McKeever's characters and whether or not their Miami is on its way to a Meltdown. One wonders how this mild multiculturalism would play for audiences outside the Sunshine State.

Credit for the Art Deco set goes to Nayna Ramey; the Florida lighting, to Marty Vreeland; realistic costumes, to Marcella Beckwith; to Karin Ivester for stage management. Time: 2 hrs., 10 mins. with an intermission.

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