Set designer Michael Amico won a well-deserved Carbonell Award this year for his contribution to Dramaworks' Talley's Folly. For its two performers, the play was a Herculean exercise in memorization, with actor Brian Wallace opening the show with a stunning, four-minute-plus, motor-mouthed monologue. But it was hard to pay too much attention to his words when there was such a beautifully busy structure catching your gaze behind him, an elegantly designed boathouse interior captured down to the smallest, most nostalgic details. The mossy edifice, with its rickety wooden boards, hole-punctured boat hulls, and assemblage of memories stored in crates and barrels, served as the visual gateway to the two characters' complicated pasts and the trigger for their reconciled future. Previous sets of Talley's Folly, from other productions around the country, seemed to favor more space and less stuff ­— more room to breathe and less room to stumble about. But the hoarder's bounty of Amico's vision gave director J. Barry Lewis much to play around with and helped elevate this talky drama.

For its first full-length-play production, emerging Mizner Park company Outre chose a work that was both minimalist (in its cast and production requirements) and maximalist (in its broad thematic umbrella). A modern retelling of Homer's similarly named epic poem, An Iliad dramatized the narrative of the Trojan War through the eyes of a road-weary itinerant storyteller, played by Avi Hoffman. Slinging an occasional guitar and swilling the more-than-occasional guzzle of booze, Hoffman broke many a fourth wall while colloquially inhabiting Agamemnon, Achilles, Petroclus, Hermes, and the rest of them in an exhausting exercise running more than 90 minutes. Set designer Sean McClelland provided him with a morbid playground — a bombed-out, multitiered war zone that bridged the gap between battles past and present, which is the ultimate message behind the play's antiwar monologue. Stefanie Howard's lighting design proved equally instrumental in creating the show's electric atmosphere, and ditto for Danny Butler's soundscape, which merged ancient sword-and-sandals sound effects with present-day war reports. This may be remembered as Hoffman's finest hour, not to mention an artistic breakthrough for Outre; I dare say Homer has never been this engaging.

Here are five awesome things about Hollywood artist Harumi Abe:

5. An adjunct instructor at both Florida International University and Broward College, she also acts as gallery director at Rosemary Duffy Larson Gallery at Broward College. Abe is the kind of teacher and friend who generously shares her knowledge and opportunities with others. Her good curatorial eye helps keep the gallery looking good and the students creating quality work.

4. In 2008, Abe received the prestigious residency from the statewide South Florida Cultural Consortium for Visual and Media Artists for the county, which makes BroCo look way cool. This summer, a fellowship with the Everglades Artist in Residence Program will have her staying in the swamp with fellow (if you will) artist Naomi Fisher, dancer Ana Mendez, and others.

3. She's a superfun, warm Japanese gal whose energy would make a tomb feel like a place worth hanging out.

2. She's shown all around town at the finest Broward institutions, like Hollywood Art and Culture Center and Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale, and her work is also part of the Girls' Club Collection.

1. Her paintings are dreamy. They visually expose that blurry state between sleep and waking and explore domestic spaces. Though she uses traditional materials, her work manages to be experimental, with colors that make you think of South Florida sunsets. They, like her work, are simply the best.

With all the petite pups in fashionable attire strolling down Las Olas Boulevard or having lunch at Mizner Park, you wouldn't think there was a homeless-animal crisis in South Florida — but there is. Each year, thousands of homeless pets are taken in by county animal-control agencies. Most are euthanized before finding a home. The Tri-County Humane Society takes in thousands of death-row pups and kitties and helps find them homes. Most recently, the 100 percent no-kill shelter rescued 50 Chihuahuas from a hoarding situation. Sick with upper respiratory infections and skin disease, each tiny pocket pet was treated by the shelter's veterinary staff. Only when they were deemed well, sometimes hundreds of dollars of care later, were they ready to be adopted. Tri-County Humane holds cocktail hours, auctions, and picnics — many of them dog-friendly — to raise funds to feed and house these pets. These small fundraisers create a sense of community, with many "alumni" making appearances and showing off their shiny coats and new "parents." Next time you're in the market for a fur baby, may we interest you in a "certified preowned" dog or cat — direct from Boca Raton, dahling?

Whether the case involved a feckless terrorist plot, a wrongly convicted man's quest for justice, or a wayward Norwegian biker trying to persuade a jury the CIA had set him up, Paula McMahon was there. Over any given year, this Ireland-born Sun Sentinel courts reporter enters hundreds of stories detailing the many zany antics of America's southernmost swamp. Her stories are always smart, well-written, and teeming with her keen sense of absurdity. What's more, in an industry of hubris and bombast, she lends a sense of decency and kindness. An adage of journalism is that to be a good reporter, you first must be a good person. Paula McMahon is both. And she makes good company during long jury deliberations, trust us.

The most erudite politician in our fair county is also the most important one. Under the guidance of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, Broward County has an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent — substantially lower than the state and national averages. More than 13 million tourists are expected to deluge Broward County this year, which marks an increase of 1 million over last year. And while Seiler doesn't deserve credit for all of this, he leads the most dynamic and biggest city in the county. He also deserves major props for not making a mistake that has bedeviled other politicians: excessive ambition. There was a time when Seiler was considering a run at governor. This would have been a mistake — established state pols like Charlie Crist or Rick Scott would have pummeled him — and he wisely backed out. For now, it looks like Seiler's here to stay. And that's a good thing.

In 2006, Fane Lozman, a Marine pilot who became a millionaire after he invented and patented a financial trading software program, docked his houseboat in Riviera Beach, and the drama began. After he stood up for everyday boaters by blocking big developers from taking over the city marina, city officials retaliated. He was slapped with infractions for walking his ten-pound dog without a muzzle and for disobeying boating regulations. Then came serious vindictiveness. Riviera Beach, with help from U.S. marshals citing federal maritime law, seized and destroyed Lozman's floating home. Lozman wasn't going down like that. "I did not care how much of my personal time it would take or how much it would cost or how long it would take — I vowed that I would get justice," Lozman later explained. He waged a yearslong legal battle against the city, ultimately scoring a major victory in January, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city and marshals had been wrong to seize his home by classifying it as a vessel. Wrote Justice Breyer, "Not every floating structure is a 'vessel.' To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges, or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not 'vessels.' " At presstime, Lozman was still looking to recoup the value of his home, his furniture, and his legal bills, but he swore he had more corrupt officials in his sights.

Andre Barbosa isn't interested in fame. He isn't interested in politics. Nor is he interested in rational action. He's interested in music videos and $2.5 million mansions. His nickname, deeply irreverent but somehow iconic, says it all: Loki Boy. Early this year, he infiltrated an emptied Boca Raton palace and then — in straight Loki Boy style — just chilled. No plan. No motive. No contact with reporters. This story hit its strange climax in early February. That was when intrepid CBS12 reporter Josh Repp charged into the mansion to interview Loki but instead discovered two Arabic women who bellowed "Hide yourself!" to each other when Repp and camera approached them. Soon after, Loki vacated the mansion and released a dancy-dance music video of his single "I Don't Wanna Let You Go." He also launched a record label, Monstar Entertainment. It has one client: Loki.

Near the end of 2012, a call went out across the Everglades: Kill 'em all. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it would hold a Burmese python hunt to exterminate the breed ravaging the natural fauna of the Everglades. It set forth arguably the strangest — and coolest — publicity stunt in the annals of bureaucracy. Don't ask about catches or caveats. There weren't any. Any hunter could tromp into the Everglades, knife in hand, with minimal training, and try to bag him a snake. But the best part was yet to come. Turns out, pythons are almost impossible to spot and trap. Over one month, only 68 pythons were killed. Even though Florida Fish and Wildlife didn't manage total annihilation, it did bring an incredible amount of attention to the python epidemic writhing in the Everglades. Reporters dispatched hundreds of stories covering the issue.

To traverse our sprawling county at the mercy of a county bus route can cause great anxiety for commuters, but Broward County Transit offers fun and games for the casual visitor. Get on the number four. If you're here from out of town, you can hop a free connection from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to the Tri-Rail station. From there, this bus takes you east to the Dania Beach Fishing Pier, where you can hop off and check out the oldest pier in the tricounty area and get a drink at the Beach Watch Restaurant (remember, you're not driving!). Then get back on the bus and relax while the number four takes you south toward Young Circle in Hollywood. If your timing is right, you'll find yourself in the middle of live music or other festivities that break out regularly in the circle. Once you've had your fun there, Route 4 next heads west to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, where you can pretty much say "sayonara" to your day, getting lost in the shopping, eating, drinking (still not driving), playing cards, playing slots — whatever. Do it up. And if you miss the last bus (which on the weekend can be as early as 9 p.m.), you can get a room or call a cab. If you need to make it back to the airport or Tri-Rail station after your Fort Lauderdale adventure, just take the bus full circle. A day pass will cost you just four dollars — cheaper than filling the tank and safer than drinking and driving.

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