ArtsCenter Stage’s 11th annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle short-play festival, which concludes its three-week run on July 19-22 in the center’s Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater in Carrboro, NC, is a mixed bag of comic one-act plays that range from hilarious to ho-hum.
Act I begins with “It’s What’s for Dinner,” written Jonathan Graham and directed by Sylvia Mallory. It is a whimsical comedy about the politics of food, set in a refrigerator overcrowded with Fred Corlett, Page Purgar, Mary Rowland, and Geraud Staton, playing characters that are all far past their sell-by dates.
Next up is “Meet Cute,” written Aishwarya Jha Mathur and directed by Gregor McElvogue. Two strangers played by Jess Jones and Nilan Johnson meet in an airport lounge, while ostensibly waiting for the flights carrying their Significant Others to touch down. Jones and Johnson have no romantic chemistry whatsoever, and they banter — not at all convincingly — before strolling off into the sunset together, leaving her boyfriend and his girlfriend stranded — and that’s not funny.
In “Northern Lights,” written Tyler McClain and directed by Mark Filiaci, Brandon Garegnani’s late-night visit to former girlfriend Laurel Ullman, to get her outside to see the aurora borealis (a.k.a. the Northern Lights) is another DOA (Dead on Arrival) romantic comedy.
“A Short History of Weather,” written Jonathan Yukich and directed by Michael O’Foghludha, is a little funnier. The weather is the safe but not very interesting topic for a couple (David Berberian and Leanne Norton Heintz) who never quite hit it off.
“Misfortune,” written Mark Harvey Levine and directed by Chris Chiron, is by far the best that 10 by 10 in the Triangle has to offer. It just gets funnier and funnier as a hapless diner at a Chinese restaurant opens fortune after fortune cookie with messages of gloom and doom and imminent death. Fred Corlett gives a side-splitting performance as a guy whose future may be all used up, as fortune teller Marlene Dietrich told Orson Welles in Touch of Evil (1958); and comic cameos by Jess Jones, Page Purgar, and Geraud Staton spice up the proceedings.
Act II begins with “Perfect Strangers,” written Peter Snoad and directed by Julie Tomkovick. David Berberian and Laurel Ullman meet on a mountainside in the midst of a hike, and share some uncomfortable moments talking about her cancer.
“The Quiz,” written K. Alexa Mavromatis and directed by Leslie Cloninger, asks, Can you fail a Cosmo sex quiz, girlfriend? Page Purgar and Leanne Norton Heintz get a few chuckles while they search for the answers.
“After You,” written Libba Beaucham and directed by Jerry Sipp, is the nadir of 10 by 10 in the Triangle. It is an increasingly tedious comedy of manners in which David Berberian and Geraud Staton assume British accents(?) to argue over which one will hold the door for the other.
“Please Report Any Suspicious Activity,” written Rick Park and directed by Carolyn McDaniel, is a lame sci-fi comedy set during a subway ride. A hapless commuter, played by Fred Corlett, is trapped in a car with a gay couple played by Brandon Garegnani and Nilan Johnson, who happen to be sharks(!?!) in human form, bickering over whether Garegnani has had an interspecies romantic encounter.
“Oedipus: The Prequel,” written Matt Fotis and directed by John Boni, mercifully wrings down the curtain on the 11th annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle short-play festival — and none too soon. Geraud Staton plays the title role of the ancient Greek ruler of Thebes who accidentally murders his father and marries his mother, and Mary Rowland plays Jocasta as an ancient Greek cougar on the prowl. Jess Jones and Page Purgar are largely wasted in supporting roles.
SECOND OPINION: July 11th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel preview by Colleen Ni: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2012/07/straight-to-the-point; July 11th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 out of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-critical-challenges-of-10-by-10-in-the-triangle/Content?oid=3100913; and July 7th Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2012/07/07/all-eyes-on-10-by-10-11-at-the-carrboro-artscenter/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the July 6th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/07/the-10-by-10-in-the-triangle-short-play-festival-returns-to-the-artscenter-in-carrboro-on-july-6th/.)
ArtsCenter Stage presents THE 10 BY 10 FESTIVAL IN THE TRIANGLE at 8 p.m. July 19-21 and 3 p.m. July 22 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.
TICKETS: $16 in advance and $18 the day of the show, except $12 in advance and $14 the day of the show for students and seniors 62+ and $13 for ArtsCenter Friends.
BOX OFFICE: 919/929-2787, ext. 201, or http://www.etix.com/.
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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