June 19--If you're bilingual or a Spanish-speaking theater lover, you may have already discovered a hidden-away treat that's just one block north of Miami'sAdrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Micro Theater Miami is nestled in the courtyard space outside Centro Cultural Espanol; the address is 1490 Biscayne Blvd., but you enter through a gate on Northeast 15th Street between Biscayne and Northeast Second Avenue. There you'll find strings of tiny white lights; a stand that sells wine, beer, soft drinks and pizza; places to sit or mingle before the shows begin; and seven unusual "theater" spaces fashioned from graffiti-bedecked shipping containers.
Imported from Spain, the Micro Theater concept is part artistic experience, part party, which would explain its young-skewing audience and its growing success. Now, the company is inviting English speakers to the party with five short plays in English presented every Wednesday and Thursday through July 17. (A new batch of 10 Spanish-language plays is running each Friday to Sunday through July 20.)
The deal with Micro Theater is that the plays are short (about 15 minutes each) and inexpensive (just $5 gets you into a show). Each show is performed six times per night, so you can opt for a brief, cheap experience or see every play for $25 and still get out in under two hours, waiting time between shows included.
The inaugural all-English lineup is a mixed bag, with four of the five shows translated from Spanish, some more expertly than others. Two involve couples breaking up, and though that's thematically repetitive, one is a comedy, the other more satisfyingly dramatic.
Frank Quintana's comic Oh, Shoot features Nelly Torres as Peggy, a woman who answers phones at an agency with an interminable name, and it imagines the audience as people who have come for a group therapy session. She gets pressed into duty when the regular therapists are tied up, but she's quickly interrupted by her boyfriend George (Ralph Martinez), who has come to finally put a ring on it after four years of dating. First, though, when Peggy is called into the next room, George shares the hilarious (and R-rated) story of how the two met at a gay bar.
In David Trueba's Own Goal, Issam Villamil as Dario and David Baquero as Pelayo play pals who are strategizing about the best way for one of them to break things off with his girlfriend, though she's about to show up to look at an apartment the couple might rent together. The guys rehearse the conversation, but once Aly Petangelo as Marian arrives, that talk doesn't go at all as planned.
Nancho Novo's Kill It is an absurd little piece about two actresses doing a final audition for the lead role in a new show in London. Alma Matrecito as the diva Lola, Engie Camila as the nervous Pepa and Anaridia Burgos as the "judge" perform the play about not-so-friendly rivals and the possibility of murder. The translation is flawed, though; in English, the "judge" would be a director or casting agent, not the only instance of the language being off.
Fernando Bellver's Voyeurs and Women is an odd, nasty little piece featuring Amanda Ortega and Jannelys Santos. It's the tale of Cristina (Santos), a potty-mouthed sex worker being paid, quarter by quarter, to fulfill the fantasies of a lesbian named Joy (Ortega). Turns out the two were once classmates, and the customer has lusted after the mean girl for years.
Best of the lot, both in writing and acting, is Pesto Pasta by Nacho Redondo. This is the other, better breakup play, featuring Carolina Pozo and Kristian Bikic as a wife and husband getting ready to call it quits over an Italian dinner. It emerges that wife Luisa keeps her forgetful hubby Ruben on track, and though they separately voice their true feelings to the audience, their conversation with each other is more cautious and less honest.
Each container "theater" seats about 15 people on small stools. The boxy spaces are air conditioned, with lights and minimalist sets at one end, and for the play's short duration the environment is comfortable enough (maybe not for the claustrophobic, though).
If the English-language Micro Theater grows as the Spanish one has, perhaps the producers will unearth more original scripts and expand their acting pool. Already, though, this is a welcome -- and fun -- addition to Miami's alternative theater scene.
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