Comedy about Miami comes to Sarasota

'South Beach Babylon' a comic look at South Florida's art scene

mclear@bradenton.comJuly 25, 2013 

World premieres are great, Michael McKeever said, but it's really the second production of a play that matters.

"A lot of times it's even harder to get that second production than a world premiere," McKeever said. "For the world premiere, it's a big event, everybody pays attention. Theaters are always looking to do world premieres. But then a play can just die. It's often that second production that gets the play rolling and gives the play a life."

That's one reason McKeever is so excited about the upcoming production his play "South Beach Babylon," opening Friday at Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre.

It is indeed the second production of the play, which premiered in Miami in 2010. That staging garnered a lot of positive reviews, including some that could be called raves. Christine Dolen of the Miami Herald called it a "crackling" comedy and "a scathing commentary on artistic exploration." She praised McKeever's "vividly rendered characters."

"South Beach Babylon" is set in the art world of Miami, McKeever's home town. (He now lives in Fort Lauderdale.) The play is populated by the notoriously colorful characters from that scene as they prepare for Miami's biggest art festival.

"Through their eyes, it reflects in what it means it mean to be an artist," McKeever said.

That makes it sound kind of intellectual and even dry, which it isn't, McKeever said. It's all comedy.

And, you don't have to know Miami or even the art world to appreciate the play and its humor, he said.

"One of my goals was to create characters that everyone could recognize," he said.

McKeever said he's especially excited that it's Florida Studio Theatre that's offering that all-important second production of "South Beach Babylon."

Back in 1998, McKeever wrote a play called "37 Postcards." It had one production in Miami. No one, including McKeever liked it.

"I just thought, 'OK, I guess that's not a very good play,'" he said. "I put it in a drawer for and forgot about it,"

About three years later, Florida Studio Theatre resurrected "37 Postcards." It became a huge hit and has been playing steadily all over the world ever since. A new production is set to open in Poland. The Island Players in Anna Maria Island have produced "37 Postcards" twice, most recently earlier this year.

"So I'm thrilled that Florida Studio Theatre is doing 'South Beach Babylon,' " McKeever said. "Whenever they want to a play of mine, I'm thrilled. I know they're going to do a great job and extend the life of the play."

Details: July 27-Aug. 18 in Gompertz Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Show times: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $19-$42. Information: 941-366-9000,

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow

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