FAU Theatre Lab’s “Red Riding Hood” Brings This Overdone Story Back to Life

“Comedy is a language I love and one that seemed right for this iconic fairytale.”  – Allison Gregory 

   As the kick-off to the 2022-2023 Theatre Lab season, the playwright Allison Gregory couldn’t be more dead on. When you think of the story of Red Riding Hood, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t typically a comedic whirlwind for all ages – but in this case, it was.  

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Written By Marvin Glassman

The musical duo of Karen and Richard Carpenter and their band has captured the hearts of their fans from 1970-83 with 25 plus hit songs until the untimely death of Karen Carpenter from anorexia nervosa in 1983.

Over the past 20 years, many tribute bands featuring a Karen sound alike singer have come to South Florida to perform, including a Karen Carpenter- like singer from Miami.

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Fourth Annual Event Features Florida Premieres Including Georgia’s Full Radius Dance and a new work by Guggenheim Fellow Victoria Marks for Karen Peterson and Dancers…

MIAMI (September 8, 2022) After a successful national tour, the acclaimed Miami-based dance pioneers, Karen Peterson and Dancers (KPD) welcome back their fourth annual Forward Motion Physically Integrated Dance Festival & Conference (FM4) taking place in Miami from October 27-29, 2022. This three-day event features Full Radius Dance, esteemed choreographer Victoria Marks and KPD themselves in a full program including performance premieres, panel discussions and educational workshops. 

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Produced in Conjunction with The Miss Florida F.I. Pageant, This Special Event Will Precede the Opening of Pageant in October…

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (September 14, 2022) – Island City Stage, creating quality professional theatrical experiences focused on the LGBT+ community for a universal audience, has announced its 11th South Florida Season, and with it, the return of its popular Behind the Red Curtain community forum series. On September 28, from 6 – 7:30 p.m., the theater company, together with the Miss Florida F.I. (Florida Impersonator) Pageant, will present “Secrets of a Beauty Queen: No Tea, No Shade,” an entertaining, insightful and sometimes outrageous peek into the world of drag beauty pageants. This program will set the celebratory mood for Island City Stage’s October 20 opening of the glittering, grandiose and glorious comedy Pageant.

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FORT LAUDERDALE – The Broward Center for the Performing Arts scares up unforgettable excitement this October with the ill-fated wives of Henry the VIII, an alien plant with a taste for blood, Halloweentown’s pumpkin king and an All Abilities Class Halloween Dance Party along with nights of heart-pounding rock and roll, laugh-out-loud comedy and family-friendly theater.

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The Carbonell Awards Announces 2022 Winners of Prestigious George Abbott Award and Six Special Awards

The Carbonell Awards, South Florida’s Theater & Arts Honors, today announced the recipients of the prestigious George Abbott Award and six Special Awards that will be presented at the Carbonell Awards Ceremony on Monday, November 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center at 3800 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311. Tickets are only $32 each (including facility fee) and will soon be available for public purchase.

Several hundred actors, musicians, performers, writers, directors, technicians, producers, reviewers, designers, specialty artists, and diehard theater fans are expected to attend the glamorous, entertainment-packed event that is widely recognized as South Florida’s version of Broadway’s Tony® Awards.

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Empire Stage’s “Bent” Is Agonizing Yet Incredible

The 2022-2023 season came to a rather electric startand my current tenure as a regular reviewer in residence for South Florida Theatre Magazine to a rather electric endwith Empire Stage’s production of Bent, a 1979 Martin Sherman play that earned a lasting place in the canon with its premiere but is seldom produced given its inflammatory subject matter: the treatment of homosexual men during the Third Reich. 

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Two Great Performances Create a Compelling Connection in Fade

A fascinating season for Miami’s Gablestage comes to a close with their current production of Fade by Tanya Saracho, an intriguing exploration of the relationship between two Latinx employees at a Los Angeles television studio. The first of these we meet is Lucia, an earnest newly-hired writer who was born and raised by a relatively well-off family in Mexico and is new to the TV industry after making a name for herself with a first novel. Through her, we meet Abel (pronounced Ah-bell not “able”), a guarded but compassionate American-born janitor of Mexican descent hailing from hard-knock neighborhood El Sereno. 

Though the two initially seem able to develop a camaraderie and even a friendship thanks to the shared frame of reference their shared ethnicity allows, as the play goes on—and as Lucia slowly outgrows her initial nerves and disdain for her job and begins instead to ascend the corporate ladder with gusto—these class differences grow from a palpable but surmountable obstacle to the source of an irrevocable reckoning. 

Actors Alexandra Acosta and Alex Alvarez, who are probably the production’s greatest asset, do much to make this unlikely connection both credible and compelling. Acosta’s portrayal of the high-strung Lucia effectively balances the two opposing sides of the character, with both her surface congeniality and self-doubt and her deeper shrewdness and hunger for recognition coming across as completely believable. Meanwhile, Alvarez is a pitch-perfect straight man to Acosta’s more neurotic woman, and goes on to reveal his aptitude for conveying greater emotional depths when the plot finally delves into his character’s backstory. 

Since the technical elements of the play also seem to be in ship-shape, with costume designer Camilla Haith worth a special mention for Lucia’s array of appealing outfits, there is only really the script itself to blame for the production’s somewhat underwhelming nature. Not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable ride nonetheless—especially at only an hour and forty five minutes, there’s enough humor and suspense to smooth over the play’s deeper structural flaws. Director Teo Castellanos also well manages the ever-shifting dynamics between the characters while building in enough playful blocking to help keep the audience engaged.

Reportedly, Fade is based on playwright Tanya Saracho’s real life experiences as, at one point, the only Latina writer on a show about four Latina maids. This gives the play an aura of authenticity that fuels many a satirical joke at the nonsensical world of television’s expense, moments that serve as some of the play’s brighter spots. One also never doubts the plausibility of the humiliating and racially charged incidents Lucia recounts of being ignored while her less qualified white colleagues are asked to weigh in, being singled out to translate for her boss’s maid because of her ethnicity, or being plainly called a “diversity hire” by a mean-spirited co-worker. 

Tanya Saracho Headshot. [Photo Credit: Jackson Davis]

But, in the end, though these microaggressions and many other culturally charged issues that Fade explores are important ones, there’s a sense in which the script only skims their surface rather than offering a particularly original perspective on them or even a particularly well-constructed story. For instance, one of the script’s most notable flaws is that Lucia’s entitlement, obliviousness, and self-absorption make her relatively unsympathetic as a protagonist. 

Though her underdog status allows us to give her the benefit of the doubt for quite a while, a moment toward the end of the play where her actions cross the line from merely annoying and insensitive to profoundly traitorous confirms our worst suspicions while also feeling like an unnecessarily cynical twist where a conclusion more redemptive for both characters might’ve sufficed.

Though the play ultimately chastises Lucia for this behavior, the fact that it is quite clearly her story, with Abel ultimately only serving as a pawn in her schemes rather than an active driver of the plot, makes the whole thing ring a bit emotionally hollow. At worst, the fact that the script is more focused on the moral dilemma of the more privileged character than in exploring the repercussions for the less privileged one means that it could perhaps be considered akin to the more obviously exploitative works it takes such pains to condemn. 

While I wouldn’t actually go quite that far in my own criticism, I did also find myself wondering whether Fade was chosen more for its topicality than for its quality, and what the implications would be if that were so. While the intention behind selecting a work that showcases the talents of diverse artists and speaks to the concerns of underrepresented community members is an admirable one, I can imagine that there are many plays by Latinx playwrights out there that offer a more insightful take on similar subject matter and that would have made for more interesting picks.

However, if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about class clashes and racial issues, you may still find Fade’s take on them and the glimpse it offers into the life of characters that grapple with them genuinely enlightening. And, for others of us, especially those of us who find ourselves marginalized for some aspects of our identity while being privileged via others, perhaps Fade is most valuable as a cautionary tale about the dangers of assuming that the ways in which we are disadvantaged justifies anything we might wager in pursuit of success, even if that success comes at a more vulnerable person’s expense. But that’s certainly a lesson that might be both more fun to learn and that might end up more viscerally ingrained if explored firsthandwith the help of two great actorsif you choose to attend Fade at Miami’s GableStage before this September 19!

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