By Ryan Pfeffer
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These nights, you'll find EDGE performing outdoors, specifically at the corner of Drexel Avenue. In the intersection. On the street. Amid the strolling flâneurs, a couple of plywood platforms sit on some four-by-four beams. A U-Haul truck backed up to this rickety stage serves as backstage, dressing room, and storage.
This evening, orange parking cones marked off the asphalt, but a tow-truck crew calmly removed some of them while en route to plucking a Mitsubishi Eclipse with Virginia plates from a no-parking zone. As the tow truck roared off, a stage manager set up some thrift-store-caliber wicker furniture on the stage. Another staffer set out a few plastic chairs, while a white, '62 Cadillac convertible with California plates roared up to claim the illicit parking spot.
The play was delayed for some reason, but never mind: There was theater in the street.
Written and directed by Jim Tommaney. With Luis Fontanzezzi, Kirsi Hiekka, Ramin Khosmani, Tanya Ruiz, and Julio Scardino. Through February 3. Presented by EDGE/Theatre on Española Way and Drexel Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-531-6083 or 954-733-8735.
Perched on her luggage in the middle of the intersection, an architecturally impressive blond woman waited for a cab, seemingly oblivious to the attention she drew while chatting with a counterpart in black, her mini hiked up to the crack of dawn. A Rollerblader in a black tank top glided through the audience area while her leashed dachshund scurried to keep pace. As the stage furniture materialized and actors checked their props, local kids eyed the action from the sidewalk, leaning on cars like they always have, since before there were cars. This kind of theater goes further back than that -- back to when Molière and Shakespeare watched traveling street shows, even back to when they were kids, leaning against horses probably.
Finally, a solemn gong marked the start of the show, which is written, produced, and directed by Jim Tommaney, who also served as front-row gong-ringer. Based on the life and death of Gianni Versace, Couturier follows a famed designer as he readies his next collection. He dallies with several models, boys and girls, but never stays with any. To the couturier, love is a means for creative inspiration, but to his ex-lovers, it's a destructive force that ultimately is turned on him.
Tommaney, a prolific local writer/director/producer, has a poetic soul. There's a lot of heightened language here and a number of interesting ideas. Any show that references Caravaggio, the death squads in Rio, and 17th-century English poet Andrew Marvell gets my attention. But the script tends to linger overmuch on such flights of fancy and doesn't deliver enough dramatic action. Tommaney's direction is serviceable but lacks much boldness to match his heightened language. One would expect some color and flair in a show about a fashion designer, but save for the interstitial fashion-show sequences, Couturier steers clear of theatricality, though the street-theater setting seems to scream for it. The cast offers youth and energy, and some actors have the runway experience to enhance the fashion sequences. But none has the performance skills to carry off the emotional demands of Tommaney's operatic melodrama. Still, there is enough commitment and creative desire here to merit a look, if only for the street scene.