Scott Brown and Barney Frank at Society of the Four Arts, 2 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach; 3 p.m.; first two tickets free for members ($35 for every additional ticket), $15 for live telecast viewing for nonmembers; 561/655-7226 or www.fourarts.org
In Massachusetts’ recent Senatorial history, Scott Brown was the Republican meat in a very Democratic sandwich, having replaced the late Ted Kennedy and then losing his runoff election seat to liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren. Barney Frank, meanwhile, also represented the state of Massachusetts, serving in the House for more than 30 years as one of the body’s most outspoken Democrats. Frank is both admired and jeered for his prickly, rabble-rousing tussles with Republicans, but for this joint appearance with his fellow erstwhile congressman, the gloves may in fact stay on: The title of their lecture is “Gridlock in Washington: Is it Incurable?” I wouldn’t be surprised if this very appearance doesn’t end in familiar gridlock, rendering the answer to that question a decisive “yes.”
Opening night of “The Hummingbird Wars” at Arts Garage, 180 N.E. First St., Delray Beach; 7:30 p.m.; $30 to $45; 561/450-6357 or www.artsgarage.org
After a tour of duty in Afghanistan, there’s no place like home. Though if home is anything like the suburban hellscape of Carter W. Lewis’ dark comedy “The Hummingbird Wars,” a return ticket to Kabul might not sound so bad. The play, which runs through Feb. 2 at the Theatre at Arts Garage, finds one such soldier, whose home life becomes a nightmare of downsizing, a FUBAR health care system and the Sisyphean bureaucracy of automated telephone services. “What he finds in his middle-class home is that it’s basically the home front as battlefront,” says Lou Tyrrell, artistic director. “The play is about how, little by little, it’s easy to feel like your lives are not only threatened but are under siege by the corporatization that, in increments, overwhelms us.” Sounds like it couldn’t be timelier.
“Antony and Cleopatra” at GableStage at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach; 8 p.m.; $65 to $75; 305/564-1040 or www.ticketmaster.com
When Miami-raised playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney presented his radical, 90-minute “edit” of “Hamlet” this time last year, it turned a lot of heads. But in terms of transcendent theatrical prestige, that Shakespearean revision was a warm-up for McCraney’s ultimate piece de resistance: a vision of “Antony and Cleopatra,” the Bard’s divisive historical tragedy about the Sicilian Revolt of 44 BC, this time set in the Haitian Revolution of the 18th century. More than just a coup for McCraney, this production represents a coup for its producing company, GableStage, and for South Florida cultural arts in general. Funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, the lavish show is being co-produced in conjunction with London’s Royal Shakespeare Company and New York’s Public Theatre – the first time a Miami theater has worked with such esteemed companies. And to top it off, we’re getting it before New York. It runs through Feb. 9.
Friday and Saturday
Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival at Veterans Plaza, 10500 N. Military Trail, Palm Beach Gardens; 6 p.m.; free; 561/630-1100 or pbshakespeare.org
Of course, some of us like our Shakespeare plays even more truncated than McCraney’s 90-minute “Hamlet.” For those who want to imbibe a bit of the Bard without straining too much of their cerebral cortices, the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival is presenting “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged.” The self-reflexive, fourth-wall-breaking collection of Shakespearean gags, in-jokes, and pop-culture bon mots includes a staging of “Hamlet” that lasts 42 seconds and is performed backwards. This is much lighter fare than the annual Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival is accustomed to performing on its free outdoor stage, but you can’t blame them: They are surely still reeling from the unexpected death of their 43-year-old artistic director and leading man, Kevin Crawford, last year.
Friday to Sunday
Rosie O’Donnell at Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach; show times vary; $30; 561/833-1812 or www.palmbeachimprov.com
It seems like so many talented entertainers who started in comedy clubs and graduated to bigger things often wind up once again plying small stages, brick walls and two-drink minimums later in their careers. So it is with television’s “Queen of Nice.” As a 20-year-old, O’Donnell was discovered by “Star Search” while playing comedy clubs in Long Island; this led to a blossoming career as an MTV veejay, actor and afternoon talker, whose award-winning “Rosie O’Donnell Show” helped establish the blueprint for Ellen, Tyra, Dr. Phil and others. Expect her amiable act to touch on her stories from her memoirs and her status as a gay (and Jewish) icon – and also expect all of these shows to sell out, so order your tickets ASAP.
Billy Joel at The BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise; 8 p.m.; $57 to $142.75; 954/835-8000 or www.thebbtcenter.com
And speaking of iconic household names, they don’t get more iconic or household than Billy Joel, especially among South Florida’s throngs of ex-New Yorkers. The announcement of this show was such a big deal that its promoter, Live Nation, hosted a press conference just to unveil it, and, to meet demand, this concert marks a surprise second South Florida show for Joel, who is also performing on Tuesday, Jan. 7 (tickets are scarcer for that one). These days, the 64-year-old troubadour may be a bit balding and a bit chubby, but he hasn’t lost an iota of his performance flair. He also knows where his bread is buttered, performing concerts that are 75 percent megahits. Recent sets include larger-than-life crowd-pleasers along with covers of the Beatles and Cream.
Paula Poundstone at Delray Beach Center for the Arts, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach; 8 p.m.; $50; 561/243-7922 or www.delraycenterforthearts.org
“There’s so many difficult decisions you make now, as a family. My kids, for example, have decided to cremate me, and I am begging them to wait.” That’s an example of Paula Poundstone’s humor, as black as it as observational, and brimming with sarcasm and surprises. The Massachusetts native dropped out of high school to pursue a comedy career, working as a busgirl and bicycle messenger until she embarked on a cross-country comedy tour on a Greyhound bus. In the decades since, she’s earned her place on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 best stand-ups of all time. Poundstone has become as known for her onstage getups—usually a pinstriped business suit and tie—as her acute observations on life, politics and social issues.
David Holt and Josh Goforth at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton; 7 p.m.; $25 to $125; 561/368-8445 or www.festivaloftheartsboca.org.
This year, the Festival of the Arts Boca seems to be expanding beyond those nine hectic days in March – while also expanding beyond its traditional stylistic specialties of classical and jazz. And on both accounts, we couldn’t be happier. For this special event, the festival has booked a duo representing the yin and yang of a genre that has been on the verge of extinction since forever: old-time mountain music. An iconoclastic, one-of-a-kind act, Holt and Goforth bring Appalachia to life wherever they play, combining storytelling and music on instruments such as guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin, along with more unorthodox tools like spoons, stump-fiddle, rhythm bones, jaw harp and paper bags.