Sunday, July 25, 2010

Theater feature: New Miami theater troupe draws impressive talent

By Hap Erstein

Vocabulary fans,‭ ‬the word for today is‭ “‬zoetic.‭”

It’s an adjective,‭ ‬meaning‭ “‬pertaining to life,‭” ‬so it is not a bad name for a new live stage company,‭ ‬unless you happen to worry that theatergoers in South Florida will not buy tickets for a troupe it cannot pronounce or spell,‭ ‬let alone know what it means.

Still,‭ ‬welcome Zoetic Stage,‭ ‬the brainchild of producing artistic director Stuart Meltzer and his partner,‭ ‬playwright-designer-actor Michael McKeever (at right).‭ ‬They have gathered a group of prominent local theater artists and established themselves with a lofty mission statement,‭ ‬promising to become‭ “‬Miami’s theater company.‭”

Meltzer,‭ ‬former artistic head of City Theatre,‭ ‬has certainly been able to lure some terrific talent to the venture.‭ ‬The roster includes Irene Adjan,‭ ‬Stephen G.‭ ‬Anthony,‭ ‬Jeffrey Bruce,‭ ‬Nick Duckart,‭ ‬Lela Elam,‭ ‬John Felix,‭ ‬Elena Maria Garcia,‭ ‬Maribeth Graham,‭ ‬Amy London,‭ ‬Margery Lowe,‭ ‬Amy McKenna,‭ ‬David Perez Ribada,‭ ‬Jerry Seeger,‭ ‬Kim St.‭ ‬Leon,‭ ‬Barry Tarallo,‭ ‬Laura Turnbull and Tom Wahl.‭ ‬Very impressive group.

Still,‭ ‬this is hardly an opportune economic time to start such an ambitious venture.‭ ‬But Zoetic already has a board of directors in place,‭ ‬headed by Stephanie Demos-Brown,‭ ‬wife of Christopher Demos-Brown (at left),‭ ‬whose‭ ‬When the Sun Shone Brighter premiered at Florida Stage at the end of last season and who will be one of the company’s resident playwrights,‭ ‬along with McKeever.

Each will have a world premiere in Zoetic’s debut season,‭ ‬which is certainly one of the most promising in the region.‭ ‬Specific dates and venues are still being worked out,‭ ‬but the season will kick off with McKeever’s‭ ‬South Beach Babylon,‭ ‬a‭ “‬wickedly funny and sexy‭” ‬look at the lives of five fictional Miami artists in the weeks leading up to the Art Basel exhibition.‭

Second on the season slate is the Florida premiere of‭ ‬Stunning,‭ ‬by David Adjmi,‭ ‬the story of a well-to-do Syrian Jewish couple living in Brooklyn and their clash of cultures with their African-American maid.

Next up is Demos-Brown’s‭ ‬Wrongful Death,‭ ‬a satirical take on the way the American civil justice system values human life as seen through efforts of a jaded personal injury lawyer to land the case of her career.‭ ‬The group’s first season concludes early next summer with Carlos Murillo’s‭ ‬Diagram of a Paper Airplane,‭ ‬a Southeastern‭ ‬premiere about four former best friends and their aftermath of the tragic death of one of them.

Besides all the logistical chores of starting a new company,‭ ‬a key priority is fund-raising.‭ ‬To fill its coffers and introduce itself to the public,‭ ‬Zoetic will be presenting a staged reading this Monday night‭ (‬July‭ ‬26‭)‬ of seven of the prolific McKeever’s short plays under the puckish title of‭ ‬McKeever’s Briefs.‭ ‬Audiences at City Theatre’s‭ ‬Summer Shorts have seen a few of these plays,‭ ‬and three have been finalists in the‭ ‬10-minute play contest at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.

McKeever’s Briefs‭will play Monday night at the Caldwell Theatre,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton,‭ ‬beginning at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬A‭ ‬$15‭ ‬donation is requested.‭ ‬For more information on the fundraiser or Zoetic,‭ ‬call Meltzer at‭ (‬954‭) ‬235-6208.‭

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