In the era of American Idol and Fear Factor, TV watchers have never before been privy to such a smorgasbord of other people's humiliations and vulnerabilities. Playwright Jim Tommaney offers a suggestion for raising the bar even farther. His satirical comedy Reality TV, now at EDGE Theatre, tells the story of two callous programming executives pitching their next great idea: a reality show that culminates in an on-air suicide. Watching them sell suicide is funny. It's a "springboard to eternity." People don't die, they're "released!" The hucksters have run the numbers too -- lots of people contemplate and attempt suicide; many more are depressed and will tune in. Likely sponsors include insurance companies. The jabs here are humorous, but the targets -- media and advertising -- are easy. In the first half hour, we learn what we already suspected: These people have no souls. The play is much more about the business of increasing viewership and how far the media have sunk than about its characters. Media satire is a good starting place, but we still need to understand and care about the players. Sure, Tommaney's two bootlicking backstabbers are self-serving, empty shells, but how did they get that way? Do they have any limits or doubts? Reality TV is merely a predictable inside look at the perverse world of network television. And in the end, Tommaney lets the media off the hook, when the suicide concept -- which was working -- is inexplicably set aside for a few surprising-but-uninteresting plot twists and some commentary on media conglomeration. Why not explore the suicide show further? What we really want to know is: In this race to the bottom, what is won or lost? (Through May 22 at EDGE Theatre, Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes. Call 954-733-8735.)
Jekyll & Hyde is all about the duality of man and the battle that rages within us all between good and evil. So, perhaps fittingly, the musical now at the Stage Door Theatre offers radically contrasting moments. There are, that is, strokes of theatrical excellence and passages of grindingly bad dialogue that had this reviewer glancing at his watch. There are a pair of standout performances by E.L. Losada in the schizophrenic role of Dr. Jekyll/Edward Hyde and Wendy Wood as the hooker with a heart of gold, Lucy Harris. Losada writhes, hunches, strains, and grimaces, magically turning lab-rat-nerd Jekyll into menacing-brute Hyde. Wood is equally impressive as Lucy, immediately stealing the show in the high-energy crowdpleaser Bring on the Men, the show's most engaging song-and-dance piece. Sadly, though, Jekyll turns tediously introspective. (Through May 8 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-344-7765.)
Touch -- A likable young man sits at the edge of the stage and talks disarmingly to the audience. Most of all, he talks about Zoe: his first high school crush, the love of his life, the stuff of dreams, now a dream lost forever. What might have been a storybook romance of a bookish boy and a wild, kooky girl who brought him out of his shell has turned to absurd tragedy. One night, barely six years into their happy marriage, Zoe went out to the store and never came back. Kyle's monologue is heartbreaking, even before we learn that Zoe in fact was raped and murdered. It is an extended aria of grief at the heart of Touch, a tender and fascinating play by Toni Press-Coffman now at the New Theatre. If the rest of the play does not quite come up to the promise of its daring first half-hour, it remains a lovely pastiche of raw feelings, of deepest, inconsolable sorrow, and of finding solace in the arms of strangers. Particularly when Bruce Linser as Kyle is alone on stage, Touch really touches the heart. (Through May 15 at the New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Call 305-443-5909.)
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