In the Heart of America: An ambitious critique of America as the Great Imperialist Satan, the play tracks two gay G.I.s stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War of 1990 and also has to do with the ghost of a Vietnamese woman chasing the soul of Lt. William Calley, who led the infamous My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. Naomi Wallace's script doesn't make for particularly effective theater, and her ideas, while articulate and poetic, aren't very coherent. Robert Hooker's direction features detailed scene work, but he hasn't found a strong theatrical concept to give shape and focus to Wallace's wild, hallucinogenic narrative. While individual scenes click, the play as a whole lurches from sequence to sequence without much momentum or clarity. (Through August 22, Sol Theatre Project, 1140 NE Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale, 954 525-6555.)
Heaven Help Us! The Swingin' New Rat Pack Musical: This toe-tapping world premiere about God sending the Rat Pack back to Vegas to help a suicidal lounge owner is stylishly presented, with the terrific cast belting out some great tunes -- some 29 hits pop up in the show, ranging from brief refrains to full-blown song-and-dance numbers. Co-creator Ray Roderick's snappy direction and choreography and a fine on-stage jazz combo also sparkle. But the performance and production strengths only emphasize the weaknesses of the decidedly half-baked script: Heaven's creative team needs to get back in the kitchen. (Through September 5, at Florida Stage, Plaza Del Mar, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, 561-585-3433 or 800-514-3837.)
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.)
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