DEMOS BROWN DELIVERS AGAIN

Legal Thriller 'Stripped


How does one juggle being a successful Miami lawyer with a second career as one of South Florida’s most prolific playwrights? That question is sure to arise when watching Christopher Demos-Brown’s latest premiere offering - "Stripped," a thoughtful, enticing play making its debut for Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Stripped – with a remarkable cast, astute direction and all the tech attributes which makes for good theatre – marks another milestone in author Demos Brown’s astonishing double life career. He already is known for a number of thought-provoking plays including "Captiva," "Fear Up Harsh," "When the Sun Shone Brighter" - all of which debuted in Miami under the Zoetic umbrella. Thus far his works have earned him a Carbonell Award and Silver Palm citations, the two highest theatrical awards in Florida. All of this - plus he is highly regarded for the demands of his day job as a civil trial attorney in Miami. The Dartmouth-educated attorney/playwright had an undergraduate major in Russian literature, in addition to his law degree.

Stripped, a 90-minute play, doubles down as intriguing theatre with a Russian angle coupled with legal expertise.

This time, his play offers insight into a rather common legal occurrence. It’s about a Russian mail-order-bride who happens to be a stripper (and prostitute)vas she fights to regain custody of her daughter after the state has taken her away and given her up for adoption by an educated couple. In our era of hyper-vigilant child rearing, Stripped explores what it truly means to be a “good parent,” while using a solid script to remind its audience what parenting is all about.

A lot of the credit for this play’s success must go to director Stuart Meltzer whose wand is felt in scene after scene. He gets the most out of his talented cast.

This cast does star-worthy performing, especially Lindsay Corey. She gives an award-in-the-making performance as the immigrant from a Russian region who does every trick in the trade to make enough money to bring up her daughter. That includes some of the most realistic pole dancing to hit a Miami stage.

Ditto for Makeba Pace as a child protective advocate making her Zoetic debut. She wallops the script with a volatile performance that is certain to appeal to award donors. The rest of the cast thrives, as well – a reliable accented Chaz Mena, 11 year old/sixth grader/actress Ava Riley Miles, Margot Moreland and Matt Stabile.

Technically, this Zoetic team is right on cue. Kudos are valid for Carbonell Award-winning designer Michael McClain who uses a striking visual symbolism to underscore the play’s meaning and location, including at the center of it all, the pole where the stripper works and the courthouse where the legal action takes place. Meltzer created the sound, while Rebecca Montero gets credit for the lighting and Estela Vrancovich the costumes (including the brief outfit for Corey’s amazing pole dancing). All told, you will see a lot of symbolism via the technical assists!

Stripper runs through November 22 at the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater. Call 305-949-6722 for tickets.

Ron Levitt, a freelance writer, is a former United Press Staff Correspondent and chairman of a public relations firm. He served as Florida’s Assistant Secretary of State. He currently is president of the South Florida International Press Club and secretary of the Society of Professional Journalists (South Florida chapter). He is a theatre critic and a Carbonell voter, Vice President of the Theatre League of South Florida and serves on the Board of WLRN Public radio/TV in Miami and on the Executive Committee of the University of Miami Citizens Board.