Cole: The Music and Life of Cole Porter: An evening of more than 35 hits from this classic tunesmith, whose popular melodies, such as "Night and Day," "You Do Something to Me," and "I Get a Kick Out of You," were heard in countless musicals and films from 1916 until the late 1950s. The lyricist and composer's life is illustrated through poetic narration by nameless characters, and shuffled in between a mix of songs and an occasional dance number around a three-piece band. The cramped staging and lack of plot and props stifle the action. When props are used, as in the cute "Be a Clown" (Erin Romero), "De-Lovely," (Justin Barnette and Anna K. Demoranville), and the feisty "Let's Misbehave" (Christopher George Patterson and Shelese Franklin), the show brightens. Otherwise, it's less of a play and more of an evening of uninspiring song. Kristin Mellan shines, showing emotion in every piece, especially in "Love for Sale" and "Make it Another Old Fashioned Please." Erin Romero's best moment is when she lies across the piano, legs in the air, crooning a humorous "The Laziest Gal in Town." Barnette and Mark K. Harmon do a nice shtick in "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare." Unfortunately, most of the juicier details of Porter's life story, like his gay lifestyle and "business" marriage to a wealthy woman, are lost in the shuffle (for a glimpse of those, see the movie De-Lovely). A musical trip down memory lane for those old enough to go back that far. (Through August 8 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. 954-344-7765.)
Summer Shorts: City Theatre's annual festival of short plays, a highlight of the South Florida stage scene, is back with mini comedies and dramas in all styles and sizes. Twenty playlets from one to 20 minutes long are presented in two separate programs, which can be taken in on separate nights or back to back with a catered meal in between. A versatile acting ensemble of nine assays all the plays, under the direction of eight veteran directors. The fest includes a few duds among the sizzlers, but the fast pace means the next winner is only minutes away. This year's version of City Shorts maintains the company's signature quick upbeat pace and breezy style, but it adds a certain political edge. A number of hot-button issues are touched upon: gay marriage, same-sex kissing, masturbation and, with the B Program's "A Speedy and Public Trial," a biting Kafkaesque critique of the Bush Administration's Patriot Act. There's nothing here you couldn't find on network television; the play selection limns a cultural geography that's white, upscale, gay-friendly, and left of center. That City's writers are individually raising such issues might be meritorious, but overall there's something missing here, something that's missing in virtually every South Florida theatre -- a willingness to honestly give voice to and examine opposing sociopolitical views. (Through July 18 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-0222, www.citytheatre.com.)
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The Shakespeare Project: King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream: The New Theatre's annual Shakespeare fest is played in true repertory, with Lear, the Bard's greatest tragedy, alternating nightly with Dream, that popular comedy of lunacy, love, and poetry. Director Rafael de Acha and his superior design team deliver two visually striking productions. But while the journeyman acting company is competent, few individual performances soar. Lear is given a formal, stark staging that's powerful if not emotionally stirring. Dream has an interesting East Indian look with the battling faerie king and queen -- Oberon and Titania -- presented as dancing dervishes, but the show's comic antics are more amusing than flat-out funny. (Through August 22 at the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables, 305-443-5909.)