Miami Beach documentarian Billy Corben, playwright Aurin Squire and Miami New Drama artistic director Michel Hausmann have put together one hell of a Miami crime story on the Colony Theatre stage.
One might think the team’s “Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy” couldn’t be more of an only-in-Miami story as it tells the tale of the drug wars that turned the streets of Miami into danger zones in the late-1970s and 1980s.
But for the play’s co-star, Carbonell Award-winning actor Nicholas Richberg, his unwelcome adventure on the MacArthur Causeway on Sunday night could be equal to what played out on stage.
Richberg, who plays Cuban-American Miami-Dade Police Lt. Diaz in the comedy-drama, said he was leaving the Beach after his performance in “Cocaine Cowboy” Sunday night. He, and wife, Lisa, were in separate cars heading west on the MacArthur at about 8:30 p.m. when he heard the tell-tale sound of brakes screeching behind him.
A white Range Rover then hit a BMW that was driving to Richberg’s left, and the collision caused the BMW to hit another car, which then spun and hit his wife’s SUV. Six cars were hit in all.
Richberg got out of his car to check on his wife, Lisa. She was OK.
The driver then put his Range Rover into reverse and hit Richberg’s car.
Next, Richberg said another Range Rover, this one black, pulled up to the crash scene. The driver of that black Range Rover got out and went up to the white Range Rover.
“I saw him rip the tag off and then I turned around to talk to 911,” Richberg told the Miami Herald on Tuesday.
That’s when Richberg saw stars. The driver of the black Range Rover punched him on the side of his head from behind and Richberg went down. “According to the witness. I didn’t see it happen.”
But Richberg, 40, is still feeling the effects.
He has a ruptured ear drum and a fractured finger. A doctor at Mercy Hospital’s emergency room told Richberg the cellphone he was carrying could have punctured his ear from the impact of the punch.
After Richberg was socked in the head, both drivers took off.
Richberg and the driver of the BMW went to Mercy Hospital together.
“The driver of the BMW couldn’t put weight on his leg so I drove him once we were done with the police, which took almost two hours sitting on the side of the MacArthur. We thought Mercy would be quieter, but of course realized it’s the closest to Ultra,” Richberg said Tuesday, with a chuckle.
“My first thought was for his and Lisa’s health and safety,” said Billy Corben, who cowrote “Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy” based on his popular 2006 documentary, “Cocaine Cowboys,” and its sequels. “After I heard from him and got the whole story, my second thought was: Because Miami. He’s OK, all things considered.
“Nick took the driver of the car that was directly hit, and spun into them, to the ER where they sat till 2 a.m. with all the kids from Ultra. As if the story couldn’t get any more Miami,” Corben, 40, added.
Richberg will return to the stage in time for the next performance on Thursday. The play wraps its well-reviewed run after Sunday’s matinee. The crew will have to accommodate Richberg’s injuries.
“I’m doing all right,” Richberg said. “My eardrum and hearing should heal eventually. They’re going to check it in two months. And my finger needs to be in a splint for a while but will also be fine. I go back to the show tomorrow. So we’ll have to make some adjustments for my quick changes, etc.
“I almost wish they had punched me in the face.,” he said “It would have been less disturbing. But it could have been much worse.”
Miami Beach police are still investigating. Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said “some progress has been made” but declined to go into details because he said he hasn’t seen the official reports.
The original white Range Rover that set the events into motion was left behind, along with some personal effects inside, Richberg said. The tag is missing, having allegedly been removed by the other driver, but a VIN, if that remains attached to the vehicle, could help in the investigation.
“Anything to get the file to the top of the pile,” Richberg said hopefully.
Miami Beach police are asking for the public’s help. If you have any information, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.