Gritty Realism Lifts Imperfect Biopic ‘Stronger’

It was the most enduring human-interest story to emerge from the horrible rubble of the Boston Marathon bombing. Jeff Bauman, a salty Bostonian who worked the deli at the local Costco, lost both of his legs in the attack but, upon waking in the hospital, provided the FBI with valuable intel on one of the terrorists.

His mental, emotional and physical recovery—assisted by a renewal in his on-again, off-again relationship with girlfriend Erin—was exhaustively documented by a New York Times photographer, who won a Pulitzer for the series. Bauman became a symbol for resilience in the face of an unspeakable tragedy—the unwitting personification of the Boston Strong hashtag.


David Gordon Green’s “Stronger,” based on Bauman’s memoir of his rehabilitation, captures its protagonist’s lengthy struggle toward acceptance of the role society has ascribed him, and it’s an effectively grueling road. Jake Gyllenhaal embodies Bauman’s excruciating new reality with a mix of laborious movements and a glazed-over numbness, and Tatiana Maslany poignantly conveys Erin’s mixed emotions, her face a shifting portrait of anguish and guilt (as a runner in the marathon, she was the reason Jeff was there).

Screenwriter John Pollono selected some of the most authentic, raw and contrapuntal lines from Bauman’s memoir, and presumably created a few insights of his own. The first thing Bauman’s father, Jeff Sr. (Clancy Brown), says when he sees his comatose son is “I gotta get something to drink.” When Bauman wakes up, hours later, his best friend doesn’t sugarcoat the truth when he informs him that “your fuckin’ legs … they’re gone, bro.”

This admirable lack of sentiment carries the story through its tear-jerking first half, with Green matter-of-factly observing the daily indignities of an inchoate paraplegic—the helplessness, the constant falling down, the Sisyphean trudge of rehab. Going to the bathroom is difficult too, and Green shows us why. “Stronger” is the definition of a warts-and-all portrait.


Green and Gyllenhaal not only resist the temptation to sanctify Bauman—they present him as kind of a prick, a not very great man who had greatness thrust upon him. As a media desperate for a silver lining bombards him with interview requests and ceremonial appearances at Boston sporting events, and fans thank for “not letting the terrorists win,” he grows to reject this celebrity lionization, with its false pieties and re-traumatizing aftershocks.

This is all great material for a mature character study, which doubles as a rugged how-to manual for something that, hopefully, we’ll never have to endure. But at some point, as the movie’s slow burn of recovery ignites into histrionic flames, “Stronger” becomes curiously unmoving, and increasingly schematic. It is more and more apparent that a messy, complex life has been shaped into a straightforward redemption narrative, the desire to send us home with a warm, fuzzy feeling superseding the challenging veritas that preceded it. The dialogue, once sharp and evocative, becomes a parade of trailer-ready sound bites.

But I didn’t lead with these disappointing tonal shifts, and neither does “Stronger.” For most of its running time, it remains a worthy examination of the burden of transforming into a national hero when you’re just, as one character describes Bauman, “a chicken roaster from Costco.”

Stronger opens today (Sept. 22) at most area theaters.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Your Week Ahead: Sept. 19 to 25

The biggest band in the universe tours Miami, Respectable Street toasts 30 years of oblivion, and a White House correspondent dishes on fake news in Boca. Plus, Salman Rushdie, “Woodpeckers,” a Trump-themed play and more in your week ahead.



April Ryan

What: April Ryan

Where: University Theatre at FAU, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton

When: 2 p.m.

Cost: $25

Contact: 800/653-8000,

As a White House correspondent since 1997, April Ryan has covered four presidencies, at times single-handedly raising issues impacting African-Americans. It’s a demographic she knows well, having penned the award-winning book The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America. But Ryan is an equally pugnacious interviewer on issues relating to foreign policy and international intrigue, famously scuffling with former Trump Administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Russiagate. It’s a subject that will almost surely arise during her appearance at Tuesday’s fifth-annual Robert J. Bailyn Symposium on the First Amendment, subtitled “Fake News and the Modern Presidency.” She’ll join a panel of journalists including Palm Beach County’s own Frank Cerabino and Rick Christie.



What: Opening night of “Oleanna”

Where: Evening Star Productions at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $30

Contact: 561/447-8829,

This prescient two-character play by David Mamet was first produced in 1992, where it expertly forecast issues of political correctness and gender relations that continue to percolate today. In three scenes of escalating tension, a male teacher awaiting tenure takes an initially benign meeting with a female student to discuss a class assignment, only to find his words distorted and manipulated in subsequent tête-à-têtes. Written in Mamet’s exacting staccato style, this challenging and timely two-hander kicks off the season for Evening Star Productions, with Sara Grant and Rob Bruno starring under the direction of Rosalie Grant. The production runs through Oct. 8.



What: Opening night of “Woodpeckers”

Where: AMC Aventura, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura

When: Show times pending

Cost: $11-$14


On my list of places to avoid, a Dominican Republic prison would rank fiercely high. This breakthrough feature—the first Dominican movie to be accepted as an official Sundance Film Festival selection—boldly explores the Darwinian subcultures of a male prison and its adjacent female penitentiary, places compared by their inmates to both Hell and Vietnam. But “Woodpeckers” marries sensitivity with its dog-eat-dog brutality; it’s something of a love triangle between a newly incarcerated inmate, his mentor, and the mentor’s imprisoned girlfriend, with whom they communicate through the bars. An extraordinary story grounded in reality, “Woodpeckers” is the Dominican Republic’s official selection for next year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. You can also catch it at the Tower Theater in Miami, where it opens Friday, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale, where the director and actor will appear for a Q&A and reception.



What: Respectable Street’s 30th Anniversary Block Party

Where: 500 block of Clematis Street, downtown West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/832-9999,

Three decades since Respectable Street’s inception, this flagship lounge and concert venue in West Palm Beach remains a downtown anchor, a destination for darkwave, punk, industrial, indie and other left-of-center rock ‘n’ roll subgenres. All of these and more will be represented at the venue’s annual birthday party. She Wants Revenge (pictured), a Los Angeles quartet whose driving, atmospheric goth-punk has earned admirable comparisons to Joy Division and early Interpol, will headline the outdoor main stage in thrilling fashion. Twenty-seven other bands will play all night long on five stages, including Voltaire, Subculture Coffee and Respectable Street’s two indoor stages. Visit the venue’s website for the complete schedule, and arrive early for free pizza and an open bar between 8 and 9.


What: Opening night of “Building the Wall”

Where: Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $34-$54

Contact: 305/949-6722,

This dystopic drama from playwright Robert Schenkkan might very well be ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. Inspired by then-candidate Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and penned in the weeks leading up to the election, “Building the Wall” imagines the draconian consequences of the president’s proposed roundup and detainment of millions of illegal immigrants, which quickly spiral the nation into anarchy and martial law. Both sides of the contentious debate are explored through the play’s sparring characters—the supervisor of an immigrant detention center (Gregg Weiner) and his interrogator (Karen Stephens), a historian trying to understand his position. The hot-button drama is currently being licensed to regional theaters around the country as a “Rolling World Premiere,” produced locally by Summer Shorts purveyors City Theatre. It runs through Oct. 8.


What: Arcade Fire

Where: Watsco Center, 1245 Dauer Drive, Coral Gables

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $31-$202

Contact: 305/284-8244,

A lot has happened in the years since the most bombastic band in the known universe released its Grammy-winning 2010 concept album The Suburbs and now, typified by this recent headline by the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Wait, is Arcade Fire terrible now?” No, they’re not, but the self-indulgent marketing campaign for the Montreal band’s fifth album, Everything Now, has leant an obnoxious sheen to the critically polarizing LP. But even its staunchest critics have been left breathless by the band’s titanic 2017 tour, with its boxing-ring stage design, its balance between the intimate and the epic, its generously divvied set list and its motley disco energy. Considering Arcade Fire’s last tour in Miami was a low-key club set in Little Haiti, this voluminous celebration of the band’s dense career is expected to be a revelation for longtime fans and new discoverers alike.



What: Salman Rushdie

Where: Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables

When: 4 p.m.

Cost: A $28.99 book purchase at Books and Books grants a voucher for entry for two

Contact: 305/442-4408,

Rushdie’s last two novels, The Enchantress of Florence and the Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, were examples of deft literary escapism—sprawling narratives set in Renaissance Florence and a supernatural future, respectively. But for his latest novel, the outspoken activist is planted firmly on earth, in our contemporary moment. The Golden House is a dense patchwork about an enigmatic septaugenarian billionaire who moves into a cloistered Greenwich Village community with his tempestuous children and a Russian expat aiming to crown herself his queen. The family’s secrets unravel under the gaze of a neighbor, a documentary filmmaker working on a movie about their lives. Meanwhile, according to the official description, “like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down.” Now that’s realism.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“Patti Cake$” Shoehorns Extraordinary People Into Conventional Narrative


Patti, the extraordinary protagonist of Geremy Jasper’s debut feature “Patti Cake$,” spends every night slumbering to the neon dreams of hip-hop superstardom. She wakes up the next morning with new raps in her head, if as channeled from the same cosmic wellspring that allowed Jimi Hendrix to play the guitar or Mozart the piano.

The words—vulgar and elegant, witty and scalding—spill forth with hurtling energy, and during the film’s roller-coaster narrative, they’ll function as defensive weapons and therapeutic balms, leading to self-destruction and unification alike. The transformative power of street poetry is manifest throughout “Patti Cake$” even after the movie loses its way, and the film is a persuasive salvo against the small-minded among us who still insist that rap isn’t “real music.”

As played with miraculous authenticity by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald, Patti has every reason to lose herself in meter and rhyme. She lives in a poverty-scraping suburb in bridge-and-tunnel New Jersey, toiling part-time as a bartender at a skeevy dive, where her unsupportive mother (Bridget Everett), a onetime rock singer who almost made it in the ‘80s, relives her youth with vainglorious karaoke sets. Her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty, a fount of deadpan wisdom) lives with them too, and she’s slowly dying, accumulating medical bills the family will never be able to pay.

Danielle Macdonald as "Patti" and Siddharth Dahanajay as "Jeri" in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Danielle Macdonald as “Patti” and Siddharth Dahanajay as “Jeri” in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Compounding her daily indignities, Patti is also overweight, and even at 23 remains the victim of schoolyard taunts of “Dumbo!” from mean-spirited locals, along with passive-aggressive insults from otherwise well-meaning adults. One of the things “Patti Cake$” conveys most vividly is the sense of living as a plus-sized person in a nation where fat-shaming is perfectly acceptable public discourse. As a white girl performing in a genre dominated by black males, she has to mount barriers of race and gender as well, and writer-director Jasper is keenly aware of the hurdles. “Patti Cake$” is a Horatio Alger story for a culturally divided America.

Patti escapes her dead-end life through the music she makes with Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), her best friend, but it isn’t until she meets Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), an anarchist African-American composer with a penchant for dyspeptic anti-music screeds, that an unlikely trio is formed. The songs they construct together are sensational, and watching them evolve from guitar-driven spasms to pulsating club anthems is one the movie’s great pleasures.


Unfortunately, for a film about such blazingly original people, “Patti Cake$” succumbs to the slavish three-act formula of a lesser Hollywood product. Fortunes fall and rise like an inverted bell curve, revealing a transparently schematic story that grows more conventional, and less plausible, with every passing moment, reaching its nadir in the insulting domestication of Athie’s hermetic loner.

The hip-hop scene is a brutal, Darwinian world, so perhaps it’s natural that Patti’s failures feel more convincing than her successes. But I preferred the small victories to the grand ambitions of radio play and record deals. The movie is never better than an early scene in which Patti and an arrogant former classmate engage in a rap duel in a gas-station parking lot.

At first, she seems intimidated by her more experienced combatant, absorbing his rhymed insults about her weight all too personally. But then the gears of inspiration begin to grind in her head, and she fires back with verses of her own, at first slowly, even sensually, before dropping the hammer on his manhood with the confidence of a pro. Lightning in a bottle doesn’t crackle better than that.

Patti Cake$ opens today at Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton Raton, Silverspot in Coconut Creek, Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas in Jupiter, and the Classic Gateway Theater in Fort Lauderdale.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Your Weeks Ahead: Aug. 29 to Sept. 10

[NOTE: This column covers the next two weeks ahead, to accommodate for a vacation next week.]

Mizner Park hosts a Brazilian bash, South Florida artists re-interpret the classic femme fatale, and Boca restaurants offer a month of prix fixe specials. Plus, Green Day, the Norton’s “Earth Works,” “Marjorie Prime” and more in the weeks ahead.



What: Opening night of “Femme Fatale” All Girl Art Show

Where: Howley’s, 4700 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach

When: 7 p.m. to midnight

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/833-5691,

The archetype of the femme fatale—the seductive beauty from many a pulp novel and noir film, who ensnares a hapless male into a web of deception—is the subject of this diverse exhibition of work by 20 female artists from South Florida. The artists will reinvent, re-interpret and recontextualize femmes fatales, in a dynamic show curated by Kelcie McQuaid of Shangri-La Creations. At Tuesday’s opening, in addition to the art, at least 10 vendors will be on hand selling their wares, and local singer-songwriter Lindsey Mills will perform an acoustic set. You’ll want to stick around and order from Howley’s extensive, classic diner menu—or come back another day to view the art in a less raucous context. The show runs through Sept. 25.


Photo courtesy of CNHVision

Photo courtesy of CNHVision

What: Grunge Fest

Where: Revolution Live, 100 S.W. Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $10

Contact: 954/449-1025,

Those of us unlucky enough to have discovered Nirvana posthumously can experience the next best thing at this bargain-priced tribute concert. Orlando-based Nirvanna goes beyond the call of cover-band duty, re-creating the music, clothes and hairstyles of the grunge pioneers, perfectly imitating Kurt Cobain’s distinctive howls and signature disaffected look. One listen to the music, either in a live setting or recorded, confirms the group’s note-perfect commitment. Arrive early for Facelift, which memorializes the look and sound of another platinum-selling Seattle export, Alice in Chains.



What: Opening day of Boca Raton Restaurant Month

Where: Participating area restaurants

When: Lunch and dinner!

Cost: $21 to $40 for prix fixe meals

Contact: 561/395-4433,

September is a great month to experiment with a new dish, or finally try that hot new restaurant in Mizner Park or Royal Palm Place. For the entire month, 23 restaurants will be offering prix fixe dinner (and sometimes lunch) specials, thanks to this initiative from the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. The theme of this year’s Boca Restaurant Month is “I Love New York,” and each venue will offer, as part of its special menu, a New York-themed item, from Manhattan clam chowder to N.Y.-style cheesecake. Given the number of ex-New Yorkers that call the 561 area code their home, standards will be high. But with eateries like Max’s Grille, Henry’s, Morton’s and City Fish Market participating, expect them to be exceeded. Visit the promotion’s website for all restaurants.



What: Green Day

Where: Coral Sky Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $27 lawn seating still available


For audiences of a certain age, Green Day became synonymous with adolescent awakening, channeling the anxieties and rebellion of the pre-college set on its 1994 breakthrough Dookie—still an awesome album, even by this 34-year-old writer’s tastes. But the pop-punk trio has remained relevant three decades later, after many of its peers have shredded and snare-drummed into the dustbin of alt-rock history. American Idiot, from 2004, became a potent rallying cry for the antiwar, anti-Bush left, and was later adapted into a musical. Last year’s Revolution Radio, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, has become a similar cultural touchstone for the anti-Trump resistance, which will be in full flower at next weekend’s South Florida tour stop. Expect fireworks (literal and figurative), T-shirt guns, audience participation, imaginative cover medleys and a frenzied, eclectic set list spanning nearly the band’s entire career.


Earth Works image 1

What: Opening day of “Earth Works”

Where: Norton Museum, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Cost: Free

Contact: 561/832-5196,

Art and science share canvases in this collection of more than 30 environmentally alarming works by photographer Justin Brice Guariglia. The New York City artist flew over Greenland seven times during 2015 and 2016 as part of NASA’s Operation IceBridge, which surveys the impact of climate change on the country’s melting glaciers. The resulting exhibition, subtitled “Mapping the Anthropocene,” is both a striking collection of abstract photo-paintings and a clarion call about sea level rise. Printed with an acrylic process Guariglia himself invented, the impossible-to-replicate aerial close-ups of “Earth Works” are both placid and tempestuous, astral and arctic, forcing us to look anew at the geography we’re slowly losing.



What: Opening night of “Marjorie Prime”

Where: Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth

When: 2 and 6 p.m. Cost: $6-$9

Contact: 561/296-9382,

This much-anticipated science-fiction movie arrives in theaters with an impeccable provenance: It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. It’s set in the near future, where holographic projections of deceased loved ones are de rigueur, helping widows cope through the illusion of immortality. For the 86-year-old title character (played by Lois Smith), this technology becomes her link to the past and her crutch against Alzheimer’s, manifesting in the form of John Hamm’s virtual simulacrum of her late husband. A meditation on memory and mortality from the cerebral sci-fi auteur Michael Almereyda, “Marjorie Prime” co-stars Tim Robbins and Geena Davis, and it currently boasts a 93-percent “fresh” ranking from Rotten Tomatoes.


What: Opening night of “Dual Frequency”

Where: Art and Culture Center, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood

When: 6 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $10

Contact: 954/921-3274,

Not all of the best local artists struggle financially, but the romantic cliché of the starving artist still carries a lot of truth. Hence the continued importance of grants to ensure their impactful, unifying work can proceed without extreme financial hardship. “Dual Frequency,” an initiative/exhibition from the South Florida Cultural Consortium, showcases work from 14 preeminent South Florida artists pegged for 2017 grants of either $15,000 or $7,500. The diverse group show crosses many disciplines, with Art and Culture Center curator Laura Marsh stating in a press release that “this group of artists represents some of the most committed and community-engaged in South Florida.” Catch the exhibition through Oct. 22.



What: Brazilian Beat

Where: Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton

When: 6 to 11 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/367-7070,

Brazil will celebrate its Independence Day Sept. 7, and for us in South Florida, that means it’s a great excuse to party like we’re South Americans. Downtown Boca hopes to draw thousands to Mizner Park for the sixth-annual Brazilian Beat, which has become the region’s premier celebration of Brazilian culture. The evening will feature gourmet and authentic Brazilian cuisine, a Zumba showcase, a Capoeira circle, carnival dancers and samba drummers, along with a couple of outstanding music acts courtesy of Miami’s Rhythm Foundation: national headliner Vanessa de Mata, the longtime Brazilian songstress whose reggae career included a stint with Jamaican legends Black Uhuru; and Batuke Samba Funk, an Afro-samba Big Band whose funk-influenced sound aims to bridge the gap between American and Brazilian music.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
blue green swipes on yellow

Your Week Ahead: Aug. 22 to 28

Animal artists show off their paintings, a Miami mentalist plays Russian roulette, and an all-female tribute act brings a Whole Lotta Love. Plus, Demetri Martin, Gilbert Gottfried, “The Sunshine Boys” and more in your week ahead.


Michael H. Small & Peter Librach

What: “The Sunshine Boys”

Where: Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate

When: 2 p.m. Cost: $48

Contact: 954/344-7765,

This 1972 Neil Simon comedy is the playwright’s nostalgic ode to vaudeville, that early-20th-century clearinghouse for live entertainers of various stripes—think “America’s Got Talent” for the Depression era. The Sunshine Boys of the title, Al Lewis and Willie Clark, were a once-successful vaudeville comedy duo for more than four decades, but whose relationship withered. When Willie’s nephew, a talent agent, inspires his uncle to reunite with his former partners, old wounds reopen with humor and Simon’s trademark humanism. Simon is said to have been inspired by several mostly forgotten, real-life vaudeville duos, such as Smith & Dale and Gallagher & Shean. We’d like to think that, given this week’s celebrity passing, that Martin & Lewis were firmly on Simon’s mind. “The Sunshine Boys” runs through Sept. 24.



What: ONYX Art Stroll

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 866/811-4111,

Arts Garage’s monthly celebration of South Florida artists and musicians features a pair of live bands and handful of artists and crafters hawking their original wares in the venue’s Grassroots Gallery. August’s lineup features soulful, funky rock bands Chemradery (pictured) and the Nostalgic Minds. The latter, a six-piece outfit, recently released an EP of acoustic songs and a faithful cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.” Between acts, and before the show, shop the local vendors, whose work is usually concentrated in outsider art, painting, sculpture, mixed media and jewelry.



What: Gilbert Gottfried

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: Various show times

Cost: $22

Contact: 561/833-1812,

Back when “The Celebrity Apprentice” was merely one of television’s guiltiest pleasures and not a road map to a polarizing presidency, Gilbert Gottfried had the hilarious, unmitigated audacity to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler … to Donald Trump’s face. It should come as a surprise to no one that Gottfried didn’t last much longer on the NBC series; getting fired for un-P.C. barbs is kind of his thing. Just ask Aflac, which ended Gottfried’s lucrative tenure as its spokes-duck after he tweeted off-color jokes about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But for fans of the screechy-voiced comic, his ruthlessness at pillorying such sacred cows continues to ensure packed comedy clubs wherever he performs, in an act that is old-fashioned in its approach and cutting-edge in its content. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.



What: Alan Chamo: “Mind Hacker”

Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $39-$49

Contact: 800/211-1414,

Chamo, a longtime Miami magician and comedian, concludes his three-week residency at the Colony with six shows in both English and Spanish this weekend. A favorite on cruise ships and corporate mixers, Chamo’s “mind-blowing” show is focused on mentalism, the sophisticated art of simulating psychic powers. Interactive in nature, his act includes mind reading, blindfolded object detections, and a show-stopping, Russian Roulette style game involving paper bags and a large spike—making for a pointed illusion, indeed.



What: “Wet Hot American Summer”

Where: Crest Theatre at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $5, or $15 for VIP ticket

Contact: 561/243-7922,

This 2001 comedy set at a debauched summer camp in 1981 has enjoyed a surprisingly robust afterlife. Despite failing at the box office and among critics, “Wet Hot American Summer” has struck a chord with Gen-Xers and beyond, who appreciate its satirical skewering of 1980s sex comedies and its bonkers sense of humor, courtesy of “The State” alums Michael Showalter and David Wain. Bawdy, iconic and endlessly quotable, the movie’s enshrinement as a cult classic makes it a perfect fit for the Crest’s summer movie series. It also provides for plenty of star-gazing, with a parade of familiar faces including Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, and a then-unknown Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper. For a $15 VIP ticket, you get one drink and food item along with admission.


Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

What: Lez Zeppelin

Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/462-0222,

“Lez Zeppelin” is an irresistible name for an all-female tribute act to Led Zeppelin, but if the four ladies didn’t bring the fire along with the irony, it would be easy to write them off as a novelty act. But these women rock just as hard as Robert Plant and company, resurrecting Zeppelin’s greatest hits with unimpeachable passion and urgency. The group established its authentic bona fides in 2007, when it enlisted Led Zeppelin sound engineer Eddie Kramer to produce its debut album. The band subsequently employed ‘60s-era period instrumentation, includes ‘50s guitars, a 1960s compressor and a Fuzzbender stomp box, to recreate the vinyl version of Zeppelin I. As a live band, the extra x chromosome goes a long way; for evidence, look no further than Lez Zeppelin’s orgasmic take on “Whole Lotta Love.”

blue green swipes on yellow

What: “Savage: Art Made by Animals”

Where: Macaya Gallery, 145 N.W. 36th St., Miami

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free


Yes, you read that correctly: This fundraiser features artwork created by the animals of Zoo Miami, with some assistance by their stewards. Themes include the relationship between the animals and their keepers, a collaboration that resonates across dozens of abstract paintings from a wide range of creatures, from snakes to elephants. The best of the bunch, like “Chimp Splatter” and “Croc Chaos,” even conjure Jackson Pollock! This special event includes music, free snacks and a cash bar, along with animal encounters for the first hour. All proceeds will support species conservation and research.

MONDAY (Aug. 28)


What: Demetri Martin

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 561/833-1812,

This Greek-American comedian from New York has built up a hip cultural pedigree: For years, he was the “Senior Youth Correspondent” on “The Daily Show;” he appeared on musical jokesters The Flight of the Conchords’ TV series; he starred in an Ang Lee movie and appeared in others by Steven Soderbergh and Lake Bell. He has achieved all of this bankable success through his consistently unique standup act, a sophisticated mélange of observations, self-deprecation, non-sequiturs and malapropisms inspired by the no-frills deadpanning of Steven Wright. As reviews of his current tours have indicated, Martin is also evolving: He eschews props such as the white drawing board of his earlier gigs, letting the jokes alone—eventually accompanied by acoustic guitar and other instruments—bring the funny.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

New Dance Documentary a ‘Step’ in the Right Direction


A veritable shoo-in for an Oscar nomination five months from now, “Step” borrows a familiar structure—the competition documentary—and lends it an urgent, headline-ripped specificity. Taking its formal cue from docs like “Spellbound” and “First Position,” it follows a high school girls’ step team in the months leading up to both a regional dance contest and their graduation as the inaugural class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.

This would be a tumultuous period for any 17-year-old trying to balance college admissions, academics, extracurriculars and personal relationships, but these universal issues are magnified by the young women’s socioeconomic status: They’re all African-Americans, from poor and working-class families, maturing in an age of police brutality and Black Lives Matter, of empty refrigerators and emptier college savings.

Producer-director Amanda Lipitz homes in on three exceptional girls. Blessin, who is raised by a single mother, is arguably the step team’s most talented competitor, but her woeful grades threaten her academic future. Cori, who lives in a crowded, blended-family household with five siblings, is a scholarly student and self-described introvert who relishes the liberating abandon of step. Tayla is an only child whose mother acts like a teenager herself when spectating at step class, but who patrols the streets of Baltimore as a corrections officer after hours.

“Step” balances the percussive liberty of dance lessons with the trying uncertainty of the college lottery, and these twin plotlines each generate emotional swells. If there’s a hero figure in “Step,” it’s Paula Dofat, the school’s college counselor, a person of deep compassion who believes in each of her students but who isn’t afraid to temper their expectations about college admissions. In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, she tears up when making her case for Blessin to a panel of college administrators. Many in the movie’s audience will follow her cue.


For me, there was no moment more stirring than the step team’s mid-film performance at another area high school, in which their inspirational choreographer, Gari McIntyre, designed a routine around Black Lives Matter (“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is integrated into the steps). As the crowd’s rumble builds into a cathartic standing ovation, the scene speaks to the visceral healing power of dance to communicate where words sometimes fail.

It’s arguably the apex of this site-specific movie, which opens not on the dancers but with news footage of the apprehension and subsequent death of Freddie Gray. Baltimore, as one of the nation’s racial flashpoints of recent years, becomes its own character as the movie progresses. Lipitz divides many of her scenes with images of the city’s murals dedicated to Gray and Baltimore’s black heritage, and we eavesdrop on conversations pertinent to racial justice and the dispiriting news cycles of the summer of 2015. Art can hardly be divorced from the surroundings of its making.

By nature of its brevity (its running time is 83 minutes) and its generally positive sheen, “Step” is not as profound, immersive or unflinching as a film like “Hoop Dreams,” yet it competes on the same hardwood. They’re both honest portraits of Americans overlooked or misrepresented by 90 percent of our media.

There are bound to be negative reviews for “Step” from a handful of Rotten Tomatoes contrarians, though it’s hard to fathom a coherent case for a C grade or lower. As a story about young women rising above the circumstances life has dealt them, this is a movie that can genuinely, and easily, change a lot of lives. How many products of Hollywood can say that?

“Step” is playing now at Cinemark Palace 20 and Regal Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton, the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, AMC Aventura 24, and Regal South Beach Stadium 18. It expands to additional area theaters on Friday, Aug. 18.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Your Week Ahead: Aug. 15 to 21

Nineties hip-hop headliners tour a nostalgic mini-fest, an all-male revue brings a bit of “Magic” to Lake Park, and the solar eclipse is viewable right here in Boca. Plus, Andrew Dice Clay, author Robert Watson, “Shorts Gone Wild” and more in your week ahead.



What: Screenings of “The Trip” and “The Trip to Italy”

Where: Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 954/525-3456,

“The Trip to Spain,” the third installment in director Michael Winterbottom’s cultiest of recent franchises, will premiere in South Florida theaters August 25. Prepare yourself for the new film by feasting in its pair of hilarious forbears on the big screen: “The Trip,” in which fictionalized versions of comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embarked on a culinary tour of northern England; and “The Trip to Italy,” which repeated the formula in the scrumptious Italian footsteps of the great Romantic poets. Gut-bustingly funny, the “Trip” series thrives off the brotherly chemistry of its stars, whose improvised zingers, uncanny celebrity impersonations and love-hate relationship form both the comic backbone and emotional nexus of the series. These modern classics are worth seeing more than once.



What: “The Ben Hecht Show”

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $30

Contact: 561/450-6357,

For audiences under 30, Ben Hecht was kind of like the Aaron Sorkin of Hollywood’s Golden Age: a multitalented screenwriter who captured the pulse of fast-talking urban life in scripts like “The Front Page,” “His Girl Friday” and the original “Scarface,” working for everyone from Hitchcock to Ford to Howard Hawks and Otto Preminger. He was also an accomplished journalist, one of the first American newspapermen to write about the atrocities of World War II. Clad in the classic reporter’s fedora and three-piece suit, actor-writer James Sherman constructed this solo theatre piece exploring the writer’s legacy. “The Ben Hecht Show” combines history, humor and biography into a format that Hecht himself would no doubt appreciate.



What: Opening night of “Shorts Gone Wild 5”

Where: Island City Stage, 2308 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/519-2533,

With settings changing from space stations to roller rinks, and themes ranging from superheroes to religion, Island City Stage’s fifth-annual short-play festival will once again highlight accomplished 10-minute works from local and national playwrights, usually integrating LGBTQ themes. As with previous years, the audience will select the order of the plays, a conceit that will challenge and surprise the actors nightly. This year, the company is throwing another high concept into the mix: The evening will be structured like an episode of the classic game show “Concentration,” complete with vintage commercials and “words from our sponsors.” The production runs through Sept. 10.


What: Robert Watson

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 305/442-4408,

Prolific writer and Lynn University history professor Robert Watson, whose nonfiction books total more than three dozen, will read from his latest tome, the paranormally titled Ghost Ship of Brooklyn. But the horrors contained in its spine are all too real: The title ship, the HMS Jersey, held thousands of American POWs captured by the British during World War II, from its mooring off the coast of Brooklyn. The conditions were inhumane to say the least. Scarcely provided food or water, and crammed like sardines in the bowels in the ship, more Americans died onboard than on all of the war’s battlefields. This alarming statistic is one of many in Watson’s engrossing narrative, which is culled from newspapers, diaries and military reports.



What: Andrew Dice Clay

Where: Boca Black Box, 8221 Glades Road, Suite 10

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $75-$105

Contact: 561/483-9036,

In a quainter time for American politics and policy, a comedian’s standup persona could still top headlines across the country. Back in the ‘80s, Andrew Dice Clay was a controversy magnet, generating a torrent of press for his misogynistic material, which struck a chord with audiences nationwide. He even became the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden. The Boca Black Box isn’t MSG, but the fact that the Diceman is still selling out venues decades after his peak is a testament to the durability of his act. Offstage, Clay is reportedly a sweet guy, and his acting range transcends his macho mien: He received acclaim for performances in “Blue Jasmine” and HBO’s “Vinyl,” and, believe it or not, he’s set to star as Lady Gaga’s father in Hollywood’s latest remake of “A Star is Born.” That said, expect this three-night stint in Boca to be bluer than a cobalt sky.



What: “I Love the ‘90s” Tour

Where: Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1801 N.E. Sixth St., Pompano Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $48-$128

Contact: 954/519-5500,

This gathering of hip-hop, rap and R&B chart-toppers from two decades past arrives at an opportune time, cresting an indelible wave of ‘90s nostalgia that has permeated movies, television and, of course, music festivals. A national tour making its inaugural South Florida stop, “I Love the ‘90s” features an enviable lineup for listeners tuned into Y-100 circa 1995: Wellington’s own Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa, Coolio and Young MC. This will never win our vote for the most sophisticated mini music fest, but it’s the one most likely to cause you to dance yourself stupid, which in times like these is a necessary escape.


What: Rock Hard Revue: “The Magic Mike Experience”

Where: The Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Ave., Lake Park

When: 9 p.m.

Cost: $18 (or $50 for front two rows and meet-and-greet)

Contact: 561/328-7481,

“Magic Mike,” the movie franchise that, more than any other, has catered to the female sexual gaze, has inspired a new wave of all-male dance revues capitalizing on its risqué market. The Rock Hard Revue is one such troupe; based in Orlando and Tampa, the company claims to be the only all-male strip act on the east coast, and it has some impressive, um, attributes: performances on the ninth season of “America’s Got Talent,” and choreography from a former director of Chippendale’s. Men are invited to attend this touring production of the group’s “Magic Mike Experience,” but the Rock Hard Revue’s website states the obvious when it says “[The show] is designed for the woman audience member in mind.”



What: Solar Eclipse Event and Expedition

Where: FAU Observatory, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton

When: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Free


As you know, next Monday marks the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, and it’s viewable—at least in part—coast to coast. There’s no better venue locally to experience this once-in-a-lifetime phenomena than FAU’s Observatory, which will host an Open Dome Event and Sidewalk Solar Eclipse Expedition. If you haven’t bought official solar eclipse glasses, don’t sweat it: FAU will provide them free of charge, and visitors will have the opportunity to view the event through the university’s telescope. You’ll even get to see live feeds of the eclipse from across the country. I can’t think of a better reason to blow off work, but do arrive early: Next Monday also marks the first day of classes for the fall semester, so parking will be at a premium.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Your Week Ahead: Aug. 8 to 14

A Cuban-American plumbs the distant past in Boca Raton, ’80s and ’90s rock icons channel “Rapture and Rage” in Hollywood,  and “Y&R” stars bring the small screen to the big stage. Plus, The Psychedelic Furs, Norm MacDonald, a horror movie fest and more in your week ahead.



What: Opening day of “Deep Line Drawings by Carlos Luna”

Where: Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $10-$12, free for students

Contact: 561/392-2500,

Artist Carlos Luna is the embodiment of South Florida’s melting pot. A Cuban exile, he emigrated to Mexico in 1991 and then to Miami nearly a decade later, absorbing the customs, rituals and rich artistic heritage of each country. Cuban jargon, Mexican Day of the Dead-style imagery and even European cubism inform his dynamic oeuvre, which stretches from paintings and drawings to sculpture, tapestry and installations. Rootless, restless and forever innovating, Luna continues to integrate new styles and formats by, in the case of “Deep Line Drawings,” gazing into the distant past: The exhibition will feature new works on amate, a type of paper formed from natural tree bark whose practice dates to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It runs through Feb. 11, 2018.


What: Blondie and Garbage

Where: Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $50-$90

Contact: 954/797-5531,

Pioneering female-fronted rock from two generations headlines this nostalgic jaunt, aka the “Rapture and Rage” tour. Former punk sensations Blondie, indefatigably touring with original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, continues to innovate on its star-studded latest album “Pollinator,” a dancey, sparkly collection of tunes that picks up where the group’s ‘80s pinnacle left off. Just as impressive, ‘90s hitmakers Garbage (“Stupid Girl,” “I Think I’m Paranoid”), led by the infectious and self-flagellating vocalist Shirley Manson, is likewise on the heels of its strongest album in years: the expansive, brooding and serpentine “Strange Little Birds.” Hear a tailored mix of the old and the new at this co-headlining tour, along with opening act Deep Valley. Look for a review of this concert Wednesday here on



What: The Psychedelic Furs

Where: Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $32

Contact: 954/564-1074,

The night after Blondie, keep the ‘80s party raging with The Psychedelic Furs, the British New Wave standard-bearers founded by brothers Richard and Tim Butler. This group’s quartet of albums from their 1981 to 1987 peak period became permanent fixtures of pop music enthusiasts, underground goths and club kids alike, on the strength of Richard Butler’s singular vocal style, the band’s limitless capacity for shiny earworms—“Pretty in Pink,” “Heaven” and “Love My Way” are among its biggest—and its ability to channel the angst of its era and beyond. “President Gas,” for instance, written during the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions, contains lyrics that just as easily apply today. The Furs haven’t released an album in 26 years, but their ‘80s output continues to offer a trove of stellar material for the group’s fans, and their current set list stretches all the way back to their lesser-known, self-titled debut from 1980.



What: Opening of Fusion Art & Fashion Gallery

Where: 501 Fern St., West Palm Beach

When: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/305-6004

West Palm Beach’s latest gallery, Fusion Art & Fashion, is a brainchild of the producers of the annual Fashion Week Palm Beach, an area staple since 2010. The gallery will keep things local for its inaugural exhibition, “Sublime Chaos: A Journey From Realism to Abstraction,” a showcase of 25 paintings from West Palm Beach-based artist Deborah Bigeleisen. Her swirling, tempestuous art pops off the canvas with bold colors inspired by fellow-abstract expressionist Paul Jenkins. Check it out through Oct. 10, and if you buy a painting, proceeds of the sale will benefit Soroptimist International of the Palm Beaches.


What: Opening night of “True West”

Where: The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost $20-$35

Contact: 954/591-0818,

In the kind of tragic scheduling irony that could never be planned, New City Players were likely in the early stages of rehearsing their production of Sam Shepard’s 1980 masterpiece “True West” when the heartbreaking news came across the wire: Shepard had died, at age 73, from complications of ALS. Also an Academy Award-actor specializing in rugged, earthen characters, Shepard was most prominently a playwright, where he penned emotionally excoriating and shocking sagas of fractured families. “True West” is a stellar example of his invigorating craftsmanship, focusing on the split between estranged brothers—a screenwriter and a petty thief—who find themselves cohabitating in their mother’s otherwise empty house. Tensions flare in this astute and surprising play, which seems to be as much about the entertainment business as filial strife. See this poignantly timed tribute to the late, great playwright, through Aug. 27.



What: Opening night of Popcorn Frights Film Festival

Where: O Cinema Wynwood, 90 N.W. 29th St., Miami

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $12 per screening, $120 for all-access festival badges


Most mainstream horror cinema, with its cheap and predictable scares and routine plotting, has nothing on the innovative and gonzo approaches of underground auteurs. That’s the raison d’être behind Popcorn Frights, which screens a flurry of cultish horror films too weird or subversive for commercial theaters. It all begins at 7 p.m. Friday with the Florida premiere of “Tragedy Girls,” a satirical horror-comedy that takes bloody aim at fame-seeking internet exhibitionism. The film stars Brianna Hildebrand, of “Deadpool,” and Craig Robinson, and has been described as “Scream meets Clueless.” Tickets are still available for most of the other films, which screen through Aug. 17. Check out the full schedule at the festival’s website.



What: “The Young and the Restless” Soap Opera Festival

Where: Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, 5550 N.W. 40th St., Coconut Creek

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $30-$50

Contact: 800/653-8000,

Broadcast television may have entered its glacial death spiral, but “The Young and the Restless” shows no signs of diminishing. If anything, it’s keeping CBS alive. The highest-rated daytime drama on American television, “Y&R” proves that well-written, well-acted, well-directed soaps can still attract eyeballs and advertising dollars even in the Netflix world. Having never seen an episode, I won’t pretend to write about it with authority, but for the show’s fans, the actors appearing at this live Soap Opera Festival need no introduction. Amelia Heinle, Kristoff St. John, Tracey E. Bregman (pictured) and Chrisian Le Blanc will field questions from the audience and share behind-the-scenes insights about the Emmy-winning show’s production in this 75-minute program.


What: Norm MacDonald

Where: The Casino @ Dania Beach, 301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach

When: 7 and 10 p.m.

Cost: $30-$45

Contact: 954/920-1511,

I reckon it’s been years since my favorite comedian, Norm MacDonald, has taken a stage in South Florida, so expect a slate of new (or at least new-ish) material that may or may not also be found on his recent Netflix special “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery.” MacDonald is most famous for his polarizing three-year run as the “Weekend Update” anchor in the booming ‘90s of “Saturday Night Live,” in which he shredded pop-culture magnets like O.J. Simpson, Jack Kevorkian and Lyle Lovett with relentless potshots. But Norm’s oddball humor, which included deadpan parodies of Larry King and David Letterman, quickly bypassed mainstream acceptance in favor of cult worship, which only intensified during his brief film career and sitcom wilderness. Always better solo than in groups, MacDonald is most gifted on the standup stage, where his brand of alternative, ironic and occasionally anti-humor yields its richest rewards.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Your Week Ahead: Aug. 1 to 7

Delray restaurants offer prix fixe discounts, a cappella singers reinterpret Top 40 hits, and a “Kosher cheerleader” explains her complicated backstory. Plus, Bill Maher, “Landline,” food & wine at an art museum and more in your week ahead.


straight no chaser

What: Straight No Chaser with Postmodern Jukebox

Where: Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton When: 7:30 p.m. Cost: $18-$89

Contact: 800/745-3000,

Like most a cappella groups, Straight No Chaser found its harmonic calling on a college campus, Indiana University, in the late 1990s. But it took the world nine years to fully discover the band, when a 1998 video of its polyphonic take on “The 12 Days of Christmas” went viral, in 2007. That video yielded 20 million hits and a five-record deal, which has seen the nine-piece ensemble expand well beyond holiday hits. At this concert, expect to hear the singers’ heavenly takes on vintage and contemporary classics from Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Hozier, Walk the Moon and many more. Definitely arrive early for openers Postmodern Jukebox, which similarly reinterprets the hits of others, transforming “Call Me Maybe” into a jazz standard and “Shake It Off” into a vintage Motown number.


Photo provided by Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

Photo provided by Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

What: Opening day of “Dine Out Delray”

Where: Downtown Delray Beach restaurants

When: Lunch and dinner times

Cost: Varies per restaurant

Contact: 561/243-1077,

If there’s still such a thing as a slow season in Palm Beach County, August is it: Parking in downtown Delray is more plentiful, events are scanter, noise pollution less invasive and, perhaps most importantly, restaurants are more available without a reservation. That’s why this midsummer night’s dream in the most fun small town in America has proven so popular: The annual Dine Out Delray Restaurant Week offers discounted opportunities to discover (or rediscover) the finest restaurants on and off the Ave, which will be serving prix fixe lunch and dinner specials through Aug. 7 only. The lunch deals run as low as $10 per person, and dinners start at $16. Culinary events and classes complement the great dining, and the list of participating restaurants is a gastronomic who’s-who: 32 East, 3rd and 3rd, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Deck 84, Max’s Harvest, Prime and the list goes on an on. Visit for complete details.



What: Art of Food & Wine Series

Where: NSU Art Museum, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

When: 6 to 8 p.m.

Cost: $40

Contact: 954/525-5500,

Once a month, the NSU Art Museum stays open until 8 on Thursday evenings to brings culinary delights to art lovers. The theme of this month’s program speaks for itself: “Wine & Chocolate, How Sweet It Is.” The event pairs four varietals with four types of chocolates from Hoffman’s, one of our region’s top suppliers of sweet-toothed goodness. While you’re there, stick around to check out shows like “Some Aesthetic Decisions” and “Anselm Kiefer” before they close in September.


Sandy Gelfound

What: Opening night of “The Kosher Cheerleader: A Truish, Jewish Love Story”

Where: PGA Arts Center, 4076 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens

When: Show times vary

Cost: $45-$59

Contact: 855/448-7469,

Comedian Sandy Gelfound has enjoyed an unusual life. Aside from opening standup gigs for Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, Gelfound forged a twin career as a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, a five-year tenure that, in part, inspired this solo show. But “The Kosher Cheerleader” is also about her upbringing, which she says “left a hole in my heart.” Raised by a Jewish atheist father and a Russian orthodox gypsy dancer mom, Gelfound grew up battling her parents’ divergent opinions about life and their daughter’s career prospects. Gelfound hopes her show, with its amusing and touching contradictions, encourages others to find humor through hardship. It runs through Aug. 27.


Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn appear in Landline by Gillian Robespierre, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jojo Whilden.

Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn appear in Landline by Gillian Robespierre, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jojo Whilden.

What: Opening day of “Landline”

Where: Cinemark Palace 20, 3200 Airport Road, Boca Raton

When: Show times pending

Cost: $7-$11

Contact: 561/395-4695

Nineties nostalgia permeates the premise of “Landline,” an urbane comedy about a dysfunctional American family set during the fall of 1995. We’re not 15 minutes in before co-writer/director Gillian Robespierre has peppered her script with references to k.d. lang, Blockbuster Video and “Must See TV.” But it’s the transcendent universality of the characters’ foibles, not the ‘90s fetishism, that lifts the narrative. Jenny Slate plays an early-twenties professional who strays from her fiancée; Abby Quinn is her younger sister, newly experimenting with sex and drugs; and Edie Falco and John Turturro play their upper-middle-class parents, whose calcifying relationship is the elephant in every room they share. The film takes all the expected directions, but the charmingly wayward performances give us plenty to root for, and inject the familiar with pathos. It’s easily a sweeter, more egalitarian comedy than Robespierre’s 2014 debut, the polarizing culture-war bromide “Obvious Child.” In Boca, you can also see it starting Friday at Living Room Theaters and Regal Shadowood.


What: Opening night of “The Good Thief”

Where: South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211th St., Cutler Bay

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and industry, free for attendees under age 25

Contact: 786/573-5300,

Local theatre company Ground Up and Rising specializes in minimalist stagecraft, and it doesn’t get more minimalistic than “The Good Thief,” a 65-minute soliloquy from master Irish dramatist Conor McPherson. Carbonell Award winner Gregg Weiner, in what I take to be his first one-man show, plays the title character, a self-described “paid thug” whose profession consists of roughing up—and occasionally offing—the enemies of his employer, a crime boss. In McPherson’s evocative monologue, the thief reflects on his poor career prospects, his busted personal relationships, and a job that went terribly awry, forcing him to confront his conscience. “The Good Thief” is an early McPherson work, completed when he was in his early ‘20s; it likely won’t be produced again for an awfully long time, so it may be worth the schlep to South Miami. See it through Aug. 20.



What: Robert Dubac’s “The Book of Moron”

Where: Broward Center, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $45-$50

Contact: 954/462-0222,

A monologist whose craft has been compared to Mark Twain and Lily Tomlin, Robert Dubac looks askance at American culture and politics, with an eye that is both jaundiced and probing. Prone to asking big-picture questions about a society awash in distracting minutia, Dubac acts as philosopher and social critic in his latest stage comedy “The Book of Moron,” which showcases his deft combination of standup and live theatre. In this touring production, which recently ran off-Broadway, Dubac inhabits multiple guises in his deconstruction of our so-called idiocracy, shooting at easy targets like the Kardashians and selfies but often reaching profound conclusions that encapsulate our damaged state of things. It’s no wonder that “the Book of Moron” has been described as “a head trip on a banana peel.”



What: Bill Maher

Where: The Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $59-$95

Contact: 305/673-7300,

It seems like yesterday that Bill Maher was being threatened by a lawsuit from one Donald J. Trump, after alleging in a comedy bit that Trump may, perhaps, be the child of an orangutan, and that only the release of the billionaire’s full birth certificate could disprove the assertion. Nothing came from this litigious confrontation between two of the most inflated egos in popular culture, but it proved a harbinger of humor to come. Trump has a different job title now, one that has been keeping Maher’s weekly talk show, Real Time, stocked with his best material since the George W. Bush administration. Expect Palm Beach’s most famous semi-resident to consume much of the oxygen in Maher’s new standup tour, which will likely address his favorite themes—from religion to political correctness to the media.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
All photos courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Movie Review: “Lady Macbeth”

All photos courtesy of Roadside Attractions

All photos courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Feminist outrage turns itself on its head and shakes off its moral cobwebs in “Lady Macbeth,” the disturbing, ferocious and unforgettable debut feature from English director William Oldroyd.

Forming at best a thematic lineage with the Shakespeare character of the title, the movie’s source material is actually Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. But considering how dramatically it deviates from that novella, it’s best to forget about the film’s title and its inevitable associations: This is an original work of fiction, full stop.

It’s set in rural England in 1865, where Katherine (21-year-old newcomer Florence Pugh) has been purchased as the spouse to a middle-aged grouse named Alexander (Paul Hilton), who keeps her cloistered in the castle they inhabit with his dentally challenged father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank). Husband and wife share no affection for each other. When Alexander is not humiliating her naked body, he shuns it, preferring to pleasure himself, from a distance, to her backside.

Katherine is as much a piece of property as the housecat and the china. Like Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” Katherine is a modern female sequestered in a regressive age. You can feel the painful constrictions of the corset she’s required to wear, and you feel immersed in the tedium and second-class servitude of her life.


Screenwriter Alice Birch, cinematographer Ari Wegner, and Oldroyd chronicle this marital slog with patient attention to detail, staging her day-to-day life in sequences that stress its numbing repetitions, and shots that emphasize its splendorous emptiness. Filming everything frontally and confrontationally, Oldroyd’s camera eye is the boldest I’ve discovered in some time. (The severe symmetrical framing nods to legendary British director Peter Greenaway, surely an influence on Oldroyd’s work.)

Soon enough, the stifling patterns of Katherine’s life are disrupted, first by the abrupt departure of Alexander on an urgent business matter, then by the aggressive sexual overtures of Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a virile groundskeeper. They begin a bodice-ripping affair that leads to multiple murders—and shifts in the movie’s tone that are as wild as they are harrowing.


“Lady Macbeth” is haunted by the spirits of female gothic literature, of the Brontës and Du Maurier and Shelley, but also by the cunning femmes fatales of film noir. The corroded air of pulp-fiction classics like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” grows more toxic as the narrative spirals into ever-more-destructive directions, leading to an excruciating long take that can’t be unviewed. You’ll know it when you see it.

A doomful treatise on power, caste, corruption and race (the fortress’ head maid, a black woman, is a central supporting character), “Lady Macbeth” is anchored masterfully by Pugh. Her performance is a multifaceted, star-making turn with a revelation in every reel. Like the film itself, she deserves credit for refusing to please her audience, flummoxing us where we expect to cheer. The heart of darkness has rarely beaten under a lovelier form.

“Lady Macbeth” opens today, July 28, at Living Room Theaters and Regal Shadowood in Boca Raton, Movies of Delray, AMC CityPlace in West Palm Beach, the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, AMC Aventura, Regal South Beach in Miami Beach, and the Landmark at Merrick Park.

As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.