A Picasso

 NOW SHOWING

A Picasso: Picture this: Bearlike Pablo Picasso sits in a dark stone cellar amid stacks of paintings, staring intently at his beautiful female model, who happens to be a Nazi official. As the woman begins to disrobe, Picasso sketches furiously, and despite the dank, dark surroundings, you can feel the temperature start to rise. That's the most memorable moment in A Picasso, but unfortunately, it's the final one. John Tillinger's staging is superior, as are veteran performers Peter Michael Goetz and Lucie Arnaz, but Jeffrey Hatcher's two-character drama is written as an intermissionless one-acter that feels like the first part of something more: Just when Goetz and Arnaz get going, the whole thing's over. (Through May 9 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, 305-442-4000.)

White People: The deep-buried racial prejudice in white America is the subject of J.T. Rogers' series of poetic monologues, a powerful, disturbing theatrical event. Tracking three characters -- a bitter blue-collar woman, a bewildered New York professor, and a hard-driving attorney -- Rogers hammers home his thematic points relentlessly in this intermissionless show. Rafael de Acha's production features a solid acting ensemble, with Bruce Miller a standout as the attorney who's aghast when his estranged teen son commits a ghastly racial hate crime. (Through May 16 at the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables, 305-443-5909.)

Bubbe Meises -- Bubbe Stories: Don't let the simple stage dressing of this three-woman musical fool you. The stories told by the trio of women here deal with complicated matters of the heart, family ties, and lessons that can be learned only over time. Its rough-edged plot shines toward a brilliant end; the interweaving of two grandmothers' stories and superstitions fits like a puzzle, creating an inspirational and emotional crescendo as the granddaughter ultimately creates her own story and a new future. Sarah Wolter's portrayal of the adult grandchild waivers among confused, sentimental, fearful, and angry -- but her Broadway belt and stunning smile carries her character through the play. On both sides of her sparse surroundings are two very different lived-in homes, where the past comes alive. Sitting among expensive Jewish trinkets is Grandma number one -- a sometimes-German-accented Gittel (Rhonda Stearns), who looks stifled in her buttoned-up costume with glasses halfway down her nose; her armor is pierced and her lonely heart revealed when she uncovers the sad truth behind surface materialism and her love for her late husband. But Grandma number two, Annie, played by Miki Edelman, really stands out. Her salt-of-the-earth chutzpah and tough-love lessons make this apron-wearing survivor delicious to watch. Her saucy and strong performance is reminiscent of Anne Bancroft; her best moment is when she remembers courting her now-hated, once-adored husband. This multilayered play is an emotional roller coaster that goes beyond the roots of the family tree and stretches its branches into the unknown future. (Through May 9 at the Atlantis Playhouse, 5893 S. Congress Ave., Atlantis, 561-304-3212.)

Flyin' West -- Set in 1898, Flyin' West follows three black sisters who've left the South and struck out on their own, settling in Nicodemus, Kansas. The hardships of freedom and independence are compounded by their struggle to protect themselves from white speculators trying to buy their land and splinter their community. Carolyn Johnson steals the show with her charismatic portrayal of Miss Leah, matriarchal neighbor to the three sisters, who are superbly depicted by Laverne Lewis, Carey Hart, and Lela Elam. The role of blacks in America's westward expansion is not widely known. Flyin' West does an admirable job conveying the story, in particular that of the three sisters, who ultimately find in themselves the strength to survive and build a future. (Through May 9. The M Ensemble Actors Studio, 12320 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami. 305-895-8955.)

 
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