Afterlife in the Big City

What shouldn't go without comment is that Kagan is a playwright to keep an eye on, something that HBO, for one, is already doing. His play Mom Mom Dad Dad, written under the auspices of the cable giant's New Writers Program, got a Los Angeles production in 1997, and his work I Told My Mother I Hate Her got a production courtesy of New York Stage and Film in 1995. Vanguard Films has his first screenplay, an adaptation of Gogol's The Inspector General. His biography in the program notes also lists something called Hopper, described as an "animated penguin short." God only knows what that is, but here's hoping Kagan, given the promise of his comic gifts, cultivates the Noel Coward-tinged aspects of his stagecraft rather than, say, the Brechtian ones.

Despite the strong performances from Wilks and Mikusz at the Area Stage, the strength of this production comes from director Beth Boone's deft steering of the play's wonderful farcical elements. If Kagan can't really make a believable connection between the arrival of Solomon and the meaning of Jerry's death to Rose, he does infuse her encounters with her son as a ghost with hilarious gamesmanship. Jerry appears in Rose's dreams and also in several scenes in which she can see and hear him, though Solomon and her daughter-in-law (Ru Flynn, in a solid performance) cannot. The best parts of Antisemitropolis occur as Jerry -- hiding under the sheets in Rose's hospital bed -- becomes increasingly jealous of Rose's growing attachment to Solomon. He threatens to hasten her death if she continues to favor the German: "One kind word, and blood will pour out of your mouth."

Stranger things than the spontaneous flow of blood actually do happen, thanks to lighting director J.C. Rodriguez's engaging special effects. Hans Seitz's set takes marvelous advantage of the somewhat foreboding depth of the Area Stage performance area, mostly by giving us a well-appointed perspective into Rose's apartment and her life. Los Angeles-based playwright Kagan, in Miami for this premiere, is credited with the sound design. If that refers to the use of wind tunnel-like whooshing to indicate Rose's dream states, well, good job, Dan. Next time, how 'bout less Holocaust, more funny ghosts.

Written by Dan Kagan. Directed by Beth Boone. Starring Elayne Wilks, Ru Flynn, Thomas Mikusz, and Ralph de la Portilla. Through May 10. Area Stage Company, 643 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 305-673-8002.

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