Theater Review

A stranger stirs up a family in ‘Body Awareness’


If you go

What: ‘Body Awareness’ by Annie Baker

Where: Island City Stage-Empire Stage production, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p .m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, through April 7

Cost: $30

Info: 954-678-1496,

Annie Baker landed on several year-end Top 10 lists with her 2010 play Circle Mirror Transformation. But before that, her Drama Desk-nominated 2009 play Body Awareness marked her as a young playwright to watch.

Fort Lauderdale’s Island City Stage has chosen Body Awareness as its newest co-production with Empire Stage. Though the play itself veers from interesting to odd and from baffling to insightful, the production is another winning effort from Island City and Empire.

Director Michael Leeds gets fine, rich performances from Janet Weakley and Merry Jo Cortada as Joyce and Phyllis, a lesbian couple in a small Vermont college town; Clay Cartland as Joyce’s smart, testy son Jared; and David R. Gordon as Frank, a visiting photographer whose images of nude women and girls are being displayed during the college’s Body Awareness Week.

Phyllis (Cortada), a psychologist, is in charge of the event, and she and Joyce have invited Frank to stay in their cozy home (the work of set designer Michael McClain). So it strains credulity when feminist Phyllis goes ballistic after she discovers the nature of Frank’s photographs. Really, she didn’t know?

She’s also nervous because she suspects that high school teacher Joyce, who was married to Jared’s dad, is attracted to Frank. Joyce, who is in her first lesbian relationship, reassures Phyllis more than once. But then she begins toying with the idea of posing for Frank.

Jared’s volatile presence ratchets up the tension for everyone. Whether or not Jared has Asperger’s Syndrome — Phyllis and Joyce are certain he does, while Jared angrily rejects their opinion — it isn’t easy to live with the 24-year-old autodidact, whose obsessive self-education consists of reading the dictionary. Jared’s problems with empathy lead to troubles at his minimum-wage McDonald’s job, offensive comments at home and, eventually, to a far more serious problem as he sets out to get a girlfriend.

Though Cartland’s interpretive choices are limited by the way Baker defines the character, his fiery, intense Jared is one more memorable portrait in the young actor’s gallery. Cortada captures Phyllis’ inflexibility and insecurity, while Weakley makes Joyce a battle-scarred nurturer. Gordon, unsettling as Frank doles out romantic advice to Jared, keeps the audience guessing as to whether Frank is the exploitative creep of Phyllis’ imagination or an anything-goes artist.

In Body Awareness, Baker explores political correctness, jealousy, family dysfunction and more, too much more. Its final image, though, is a sweet and hopeful one. And the Island City-Empire cast keeps the journey to that moment intriguing.

Read more Performing Arts stories from the Miami Herald

  • classical music

    Classical review: Dranoff Foundation does another enterprising two-piano program

    The Dranoff Foundation’s enterprising concert programs have admirably highlighted rarely heard two-piano repertoire, and Saturday night's “Jazz Squared” concert at the South Miami Dade Cultural Center in Cutler Bay was no exception. Duo Stephanie and Saar traversed a menu of jazz-infused works with fine technique and musicality. Still, it’s clear that the husband-and-wife team of Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia are classicists at heart, and their strongest performances were in music of Chopin and Beethoven.

  • classical music

    Classical review: New World Symphony does a lively 18 Musicians by Reich

    The New World Symphony’s Percussion Consort presented American composer Steve Reich’s iconic Music for 18 Musicians Saturday night, attracting a festive, all-ages crowd for this one-hour, high-energy show.

Miami based artist Juana Meneses, left, and Leila Leder Kremer are the creators of “Home "HOME: BEYOND GEOGRAPHY", which is a participatory writing art project which shares personal histories and memories of South Florida on Thursday April 10, 2014

    O, Miami Poetry Festival

    ‘Home: Beyond Geography’ explores immigrants’ stories about coming to Miami

    Two visual artists are asking immigrants to share their experiences about coming to Miami by taking part in a participatory writing project that in part explores the concept of identity.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category