The four-week run of a rarely done Shakespeare play at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach could be a defining moment for South Florida theater.
The set for “Antony and Cleopatra” is minimalist. The costumes, unelaborate. The play, which chronicles the dying days of ancient Rome’s Second Triumvirate, is a collaboration between another mighty trio – England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, New York’s Public Theater and Miami’s own GableStage.
That partnership might turn out to be a game changer for local theater. And the only reason it’s here is because a Miami-raised playwright has as much chutzpah as talent.
“This project came about mostly through trickery,” says Tarell Alvin McCraney, with a laugh.
Actually, it was more like good-natured extortion. When McCraney, a recent MacArthur genius grant winner, was working as playwright-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the artistic director asked him to do a bold re-working of “Antony and Cleopatra.”
“And I sort of said, ‘Okay. I would love to do it. But only if we can do it in Miami,’ ” McCraney says.
While RSC was thinking it over, McCraney approached the Public Theater and Gablestage. The three theaters banded together for the transatlantic production of "Antony," radically edited and directed by McCraney. Even before the show hit South Beach, it was already gaining Miami some serious theater cred.
Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs director Michael Spring says the partnership between Gablestage and two of the world’s top producers of Shakespeare plays puts Miami on the “international map” as a theater destination.
“We’re coming of age, culturally speaking, in all the disciplines – from the visual arts to theater,” says Spring.
The production’s success could also help revive the long-shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse, now that a lease deal putting the state-owned theater under Miami-Dade County control has finally been struck.
“Our dream has been to have GableStage become the new presenting company at the Coconut Grove Playhouse,” adds Spring. “And that will elevate GableStage into the position of being our region’s preeminent regional theater.”
GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler says this production has the potential to do for Miami what the Steppenwolf Theater did for Chicago.
“That means actors will decide to move here. Actors who are here might decide to stay here,” says Adler. “That means playwrights will stay here or move here. That’s how a theater community grows. That’s what happened in Chicago.”
Miami is known more as a party town than a theater city. But he adds that Miami’s internationally known visual arts and music festivals are changing that perception.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a theater festival that does the same,” says McCraney.
Antony and Cleopatra. Jan. 10 through Feb. 9 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.
Tickets cost $65 to $75.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (no matinee on Sunday, Jan. 12.)