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Susan Middaugh’s "Just a Bus Driver" Is the Crowd (and Our) Favorite in 10 by 10


ArtsCenter Stage’s 10 by 10 in the Triangle is a much-loved Carrboro festival that showcases 10 short plays of about 10 minutes each from writers from around the country, performed by 10 local actors. This is the 15th year for the festival, and over 1,000 scripts vied for a spot in the lineup. The most effective plays this year seemed to be intimate portraits of people dealing with difficult emotions. There were several standouts.

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS.

Cracklers,” by Cassie M. Seinuk of Brighton, MA, opens with a man in a hoodie, carrying a bag on the subway on July 4th. Fireworks, or “cracklers,” are going off outside. A woman on the subway (a believable Kyma Lassiter) starts trying to chat with the man, and we learn that she is a subway marshal on the lookout for signs of trouble. The man (played convincingly by Sean McCracken) is edgy, sweaty, and very protective of his bag. Is he a terrorist bent on destruction? Can the marshal find out in time?

Too Late” by Allan Maule of Raleigh NC, opens with a woman being detained by the TSA, because she refused to walk through the scanners. She is accompanied by a male TSA agent while they wait for a female agent to arrive to do a body search. The woman (Page Purgar) is irritated because the delay is going to cause her to miss her plane. The male TSA agent (Shaun Schneider) is, at first, just as irritated with her attitude; but as they start to talk, the traveler reveals that the reason she won’t go through the scanner is because she had cancer, and the plane that she is going to miss was going to take her to a celebration of her first year in remission. Does the TSA actually have a heart? Will she make that plane?

The crowd favorite and, in our opinion, the best of the bunch was a gem written by Susan Middaugh of Baltimore, MD, called “Just a Bus Driver.” The play opens with the bus driver (a tremendous Trevor Johnson) trying to make conversation with his last passenger (an equally engaging Lazarus Simmons). They are driving through the snow. We learn that it is the eve of the bus driver’s retirement. The driver senses something is amiss with his fare, and his fears are confirmed when the young passenger drops a handgun accidentally during a stop. The bus driver fears for his life, but then learns that the young man plans on killing his wife’s lover. The rest of the play is a study of humanity, with the bus driver trying to help save himself and, thereafter, gently trying to save this young man from making a life-altering mistake. Will he convince the young man that violence is not the answer?

There were some misses. Although the acting was solid, “Breaking News” by Ira Hauptman of Forest Hills, NY, lacked a clear message. And “The Seven Lovers of Bluehat Whistletop” by Lauren Feldman of Philadelphia, PA, was just plain odd, with a stuffed bunny floating through space looking for a lover. However, since each play is a mere 10 minutes, it is easy to await the next offering and to find your next favorite.

At The ArtCenter, the minimal stage lets the audience focus on the stories and actors. The refreshments are craft beer, tea, and popcorn that you can take into the theater with you. And during intermission, The ArtCenter always has art on display. They are currently showing Paperhand Puppet Intervention characters, which are fascinating to see up close.

Head out to The ArtCenter in Carrboro for a fun evening of local and not-so-local theater. We always enjoy the 10 by 10 in the Triangle. We think that you will, too.

The <em>10 by 10 in the Triangle</em> cast includes (from left) Mary Rowland, Lazarus Simmons, Fred Corlett, Shaun Schneider, Trevor Johnson, Page Purgar, Sean McCracken, Johanna Burwell, Claire Koenig, and Kyma Lassiter (photo by Adam Dodds)

The cast for ArtsCenter Stage’s 2016 edition of 10 by 10 in the Triangle includes (from left) Mary Rowland, Lazarus Simmons, Fred Corlett, Shaun Schneider, Trevor Johnson, Page Purgar, Sean McCracken, Johanna Burwell, Claire Koenig, and Kyma Lassiter (photo by Adam Dodds)

SECOND OPINION: July 10th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall:, July 6th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Byron Woods:; and July 6th Hillsborough, NC WHUP/Radio 104.7 interview for “Lights Up”: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the July 15th Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click

ArtsCenter Stage presents 10 BY 10 IN THE TRIANGLE at 8 p.m. July 21-23 and 3 p.m. July 24 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.

TICKETS: $18 ($16 students and seniors).

BOX OFFICE: 919-929-2787 or

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Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Reviews