;; The charming Winter Park–based ;mystery/crime writer Bob Morris has just unleashed the third novel in his promised islands trilogy, published by St. Martin's Minotaur: Bermuda Schwartz — following Bahamarama (2004) and Jamaica Me Dead (2005).
;; Bermuda Schwartz continues the adventures of former pro football player, former inmate and all-around trouble-magnet Zack Chasteen and his mystical Taino sidekick, Boggy, as they hunt a variety of hidden treasure.
;; (History note: This is the same fan-inciting Orlando Sentinel columnist Bob Morris who left that paper years ago amidst charges of plagiarism. He notably resurfaced upon his contract with Minotaur and the subsequent nomination of Bahamarama as a finalist in the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Mystery Novel.)
;; In keeping with the custom of his last two achievements, Morris hosts his "Official Publication Party" with live reggae this weekend in the courtyard at Palmano's Espresso Bar in Winter Park. Because he's an extrovert who loves to have a good time and a good laugh (much like Zack), Morris makes fast friends. To net more fans at this celebration, Morris says, buy a book and he'll buy you a Dark 'n Stormy: a jigger of Black Seal Rum topped off with ginger beer. (2 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; free; 407-647-7520; www.bobmorris.net).;
;;— Lindy T. Shepherd
;;‘Brighton Beach Memoirs'
;; Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first play in Neil Simon's trilogy of semi-autobiographical works, which includes Biloxi Blues and ends with Broadway Bound. In Brighton Beach, a nostalgic comedy set in Brooklyn in 1937, we are introduced to Simon's alter ego, the irrepressible Jewish adolescent Eugene Jerome (Alex Salup), whose twin desires to become a New York Yankee and a famous author battle with his yearning "to see a naked girl while eating ice cream.";
; Swirling around Eugene are a host of sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts and economic uncertainties that plague his extended family — his world-weary father, Jack (David Strauss); his kvetching mother, Kate (Francie Moon); his good-natured older brother, Stanley (Brendan Malafronte); a wimpy, widowed aunt, Blanche (Monica Travers); and two female cousins, Nora (Jenna Troum) and Laurie (Lauren Dixon) — all caught between the ravages of the Great Depression and the imminent arrival of the next World War.;
; As the family members unleash long-pent-up emotions and recriminations, Salup, as Eugene, makes the most of Simon's witty and self-lacerating dialogue, tossing sardonic asides to the audience while commenting on the play's action. Although the cast is not entirely successful in conveying the Yiddishkeit of Simon's ;ethnic upbringing, their bickering, private talks and agonizing over money are heartfelt and recognizable under Fran Hilgenberg's sensitive direction.;
; By the play's end, everyone has forgiven everyone else; the family glue, though tested, has remained strong; and Eugene has finally seen his naked girl via Stanley's French postcard. Simon goes on to become one of America's premier playwrights, and the Yankees never seem to suffer from the loss of his fastball. (8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 25, at Theatre Downtown; $18; 407-841-0083; www.theatredowntown.net);
;;— Al Krulick
;;‘Let's Face the Music — A Tribute to Fred Astaire'
;; Sometimes a stage mom isn't a bad thing. Fred Astaire (Roy Alan) and his sister, Adele (Laura Anne Hodos), found themselves dancing in Omaha because Mom believed in Adele's "potential." Cute kid acts were all the rage at the turn of the last century, so why not cash in? When little Freddy stole Adele's moves, mom dragged them to New York for professional training, and the burgeoning vaudeville industry grabbed on to the pair. As we watch a mélange of tap and swing numbers borrowed from Fred's later movies, Adele narrates with a ticker tape of salary and show counts, interspersed with a long list of celebrities.
;; Alan, a local impresario and dance teacher, conceived and executed Let's Face the Music, and it's been a crowd-pleaser on the impossibly small Winter Park Playhouse stage. Alan stars along with a wooden-haired Ginger Rogers played by Audrey Patton. Up-and-coming Alexander Thomas and the charming Stephanie Aardema play the younger Fred and Adele, and the lot of them put out a machine-gun staccato of tap routines under a video screen showing old photos and movie posters. As we follow Astaire's career into his choreography years, the dancing switches to a more modern soft-shoe style, which is plagued by NBA-grade shoe squeaks.
;; Let's Face the Music is wonderfully upbeat — there's no conflict and little disappointment, but who cares? Everyone's puttin' on the Ritz, and it's much better than anything Peter Boyle ever danced. (7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 11, at Winter Park Playhouse; $22-$30; 407-645-0145; www.winterparkplayhouse.org);
;;— Al Pergande; email@example.com
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