The Music Lesson dismantled the myth that good drama must arise from a dramatic situation. In this play by Tammy Ryan, a couple of musicians, Irena and Ivan, take refuge in Pittsburgh from war-torn Sarajevo and end up giving music lessons to American children from a broken family. What made Florida Stage's production exceptional was the acting, featuring the talents of Maggi St. Clair Melin, Jessica K. Peterson, Joris Stuyck, Elizabeth Dimon, Amy Love, Ashton Lee, Craig D. Ames, Eddi Shraybman, and Ethel Yari. The alienation and suffering these characters felt moved through the audience like slow ether, emanating from their simplest gestures. In fact the play is a gestural masterpiece, with all the action centering around an invisible piano. More than a metaphor, classical music becomes a tangible character, so that The Music Lesson is not just another account of human tragedy desensitized by a flood of overt emotion and sentimentality; it is a moving account of people trying to rebuild their lives.

We laughed. We cried. We begged for more. Then we saw Muvico Parisian 20 and realized we could never go back to another theater. While the trend-setting Fort Lauderdale-based theater chain's other South Florida multiplexes -- its Egyptian-themed temple of film in Pembroke Pines, its salute to the '50s in Pompano Beach, and its palatial tip of the hat to Addison Mizner in Boca Raton -- are impressive, its Parisian 20 in CityPlace is truly the pièce de résistance. Originally sold to the public as a French opera house, the theater has been described in the company's recent press releases as a movie chateau. Whatever they call it, this place is as eye-popping as anything on the silver screen. With sweeping staircases, intricate molding, and sky blue walls adorned with white columns, wainscoting, and hand-painted murals of Rubenesque cherubs, the lobby is nothing if not stunning. Popcorn in this theater? Au contraire. While it is on the menu, theatergoers can feast on things besides the usual snack bar fare, including quesadillas, shrimp, and, in the upstairs bar, sushi and pan bellos. But the real treat comes not from hearing, smelling, or tasting a thing but, when the lights dim and you sit back in a comfortable rocking chair with plenty of leg room, from realizing no one's head is in the way. As they say in Paris, ahhh.
Eduardo Chacon
For much of its half-century history, the Boca Raton Museum of Art was crammed into a woefully inadequate structure on Palmetto Park Road -- an acoustically atrocious set of galleries that was hardly worthy of the extensive holdings. Under the stewardship of long-time executive director George S. Bolge, the museum built a solid track record of creative programming, but there was no getting around it: the building sucked. That changed in January, when the new and improved Boca Raton Museum of Art opened at its spacious, not to mention gorgeous, new digs at the northern end of Mizner Park. With 44,000 square feet and two levels, the museum now has a showcase not only for major exhibitions such as its inaugural Picasso retrospective but also for displays drawn from its permanent collection, which includes pre-Columbian art, African art, English ceramics, modern and contemporary European and American art, photography, and a world-class collection of prints.
What once was a place to fill up your tank is now a place to get tanked. Bill's Filling Station, for six years a popular fixture in a converted gas station, fills up every day after work with regular Joes (the gay ones, anyway) enjoying two-fers till 9 p.m. -- and all night on Monday. A cozy patio and bar out back make smoking easier and less offensive, and a well-stocked CD jukebox inside near the main bar keeps the place alive with music. Doesn't matter what you wear, how old you are, or from which side of the tracks you hail; the other friendly faces may not know your name, but pretty soon they'll at least know your taste in men. Speaking of tracks, Bill's is next to the railroad line that cuts through gay-friendly Lake Ridge, and the occasional passing train means shots are just 50 cents. That makes it easy to tie one on.
If work and other commitments prevent you from catching concerts by AC/DC, Guns N' Roses, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Van Halen, or Aerosmith, fret not; Fort Lauderdale hosts one of these dinosaurs, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, almost every week. If you're tired of Axl Rose lying low for years at a time, you can stoke your fire with Paradise City, a Guns N' Roses look-and-sound-alike act. Run Like Hell makes a mint performing the songs of Pink Floyd. And you'll never have to worry who Van Halen's hired as its new screamer when you go to see tribute act Fair Warning. Fort Lauderdale's perennially cheesy Metal Factory is the oasis for these imitators of the woolly mammoths and mastodons of the music world.
A lot of folks sit around and wonder why up-and-coming bands don't make it to South Florida. Sure, lots of local bands appear in our clubs and bars. And we get the occasional hit-maker playing at an arena or amphitheater. But what about all those groups that are popular and receive plenty of radio airtime yet couldn't fill an arena if their collective lives depended on it? Where are they? Well, one of the biggest problems was the lack of a midsize venue. Orbit has solved this predicament, at least for the foreseeable future. Once an unpretentious Winn-Dixie, it reopened last November as a sprawling nightclub with more than enough floor space for our favorite entertainers. Another bonus to the place is that it doesn't stick to one genre. The list of bands that have come to Orbit is vast and varied, including Thin Lizzy, Insane Clown Posse, the Psychedelic Furs, Paul Oakenfold, the Orb, and the Specials. Given the club's success to date, Orbit may be the impetus for a new wave.

If you get your kicks by hurtling toward the earth at more than 120 miles per hour from an altitude of about two and a half miles -- and who doesn't? -- Skydive America is your kind of place. But it'll cost you: as much as $159 for the jump. (Find four or more friends foolish enough to accompany you, and the price drops to $139 each.) What does it get you? A short video screening on what you're about to experience, a personal briefing from the instructor to whom you'll be harnessed, and then the jump: 65 seconds of free fall followed by another four to six minutes of "canopy flight" after you (or your instructor) deploy the parachute. Your view will include Lake Okeechobee and the sugar cane fields of western Palm Beach County. Factor in another $79 if you want to document the look of terror on your face with a video and still photos. And if you're too giddy to drive back home after all this, $20 will get you a night at nearby Clouds Edge Ranch, a 3.5-acre complex of air-conditioned bunkhouses, campgrounds, showers, kitchen facilities, and a pool. They'll even throw in a towel and soap.
Even people who aren't theater buffs love one-acts. Perhaps it's because our brains have been conditioned by too many Budweiser and Taco Bell commercials, but one-acts have the strange appeal of being enigmatic, energetic, and, most importantly, short. This season Chuck Pooler took the one-act a step further by packing Neil LaBute's Iphigenia in Orem with so many maniacal twists that it took the emotional toll of a two-hour drama. As a middle-aged salesman holed up in a roadside motel, Pooler led theatergoers from feeling sorry for his washed-out, pudgy, pathetic self to utter shock when he confesses that he suffocated his infant daughter and then pretended it was an accident. On the dimly lit and barren stage of Drama 101, Pooler's subtlety and unassuming delivery managed to seep into the subconscious of the audience and root out all preconceptions of what it means to be a murderer while at the same time replanting age-old questions about good and evil.
Tune into 90.9 FM on a Friday night, and you'll probably wonder if the Federal Communications Commission has suspended its rules regarding off-color language. The truth is, the FCC would love to find the secret location of surreptitious, scandalous Nine-Oh-Nine and shut it down but quick. Until it does so, however, this is the place to listen to the thuggiest, nastiest, bootius maximus hip-hop you've never heard. DJs regularly interrupt the music for impromptu sing-alongs and shout-outs to homeys. And they take calls from enthusiastic partyers in Lauderhill, Sunrise, Hollywood, Plantation, and points beyond who are only too happy for the chance to talk on the air. However, 90.9 isn't legal, and sometimes you'll tune in to find nothing but dead air. As one late-night DJ recently explained, "When we say we underground, we mean underground."

There's something all too gratifying about skipping a traditional meal and heading straight for the hard stuff. So why not head over to Mark Militello's eatery in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's restaurant row? Bypass the white tablecloths and go straight to the bar, which, like the restaurant, is void of Chanel suits and Armani wallets after 2:30 p.m. Order a Grey Goose martini, complete with three juicy olives, for $9 or a slender flute of Laurent-Perrier rosé brut for $16.50. A charming bartender will gladly bring you a bowl of fresh strawberries and hand-whipped cream to accompany the pink bubbly. As you order round three and afternoon melts into early evening, rest easy on one of the bar's leather-backed stools and ignore the hammer that has now begun to bang on your frontal lobe. It could be worse. You could be at work.

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