10 by 10 in the Triangle is The ArtsCenter of Carrboro’s 15th annual presentation of a collection of ten 10-minute plays, written by 10 playwrights, directed by 10 directors, and performed by 10 actors (ten to the fifth power, you might say); and our experience of the past four years is they just keep on getting better. Choosing 10 plays from “over 1,100 scripts from across the country, as well as across the world,” is a major challenge, according to ArtsCenter Stage artistic director Jeri Lynn Schulke. But this year’s selection is excellent.
There have to be degrees of quality differences among the 10 presentations and two sets of eyes and tastes are unlikely to agree on which were most entertaining. But we agreed easily on more than half. Our favorite is “Just a Bus Driver,” written by Susan Middaugh of Baltimore, MD (who takes on some unusually tough subjects), directed by JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, and performed by Trevor Johnson and Lazarus Simmons. In it, a betrayed young man and a hip old bus driver chill out in a snow storm.
“Cracklers,” written by Cassie M. Seinuk of Brighton, MA, and directed by Laurel Ullman, also centers around two souls, played by Kyma Lassiter and Sean McCracken, who take public transportation. It is a gripping drama with heart.
In fact, it is pretty common that these short-play collections are dominated by parody and comedy, for the obvious reason of time. This grouping is nicely balanced with heft and humor. A good example of meaty and funny is “Kid Stuff,” written by Westerville, OH playwright Chris Shaw Swanson, directed by Ian Bowater, and performed by Johanna Rose Burwell, Mary Rowland, and Sean McCracken. In it, a children’s art show gives some parents pause.
Also engaging us thoroughly is “The Way It Really, Truly, Almost Was,” written by Brendan Healy of Shoreline, WA, directed by Tamara Kissane, and acted by Kyma Lassiter and Lazarus Simmons, who play a couple who reminisce.
Among the play that we fail to agree upon are “Grace,” written by Michael Wells-Oakes of New York, NY, directed by Hope Alexander, and played by Page Purgar and Trevor Johnson. Purgar depicts a woman who needs a break from family pressures, to which Martha could relate.
Chuck liked “The Seven Lovers of Bluehat Whistletop,” written by Lauren Feldman of Philadelphia, PA, and directed by Josh Benjamin, which is a narrated fantasy among the cosmos symbolizing the search for love and self. It was brought to life by Johanna Rose Burwell and Claire Koenig.
We were uninspired by the show opener, “Breaking News,” written by Ira Hauptman of Forest Hills, NY, and directed by Tony Lea, and Page Purgar and Fred Corlett. It intends to be a parody of the term as it is currently used, but came across as choppy, unconnected, and lifeless, except for the rear projection of non-news, which dominated and was too loud.
“Ms. Gallager’s First Grade Class’ Presidential Election,” written by Ron Burch of Los Angeles, CA, directed by Lori Mahl, and performed by Claire Koenig, Kyma Lassiter, Shaun Schneider, and Lazarus Simmons, is a clever parody of our current presidential candidate farce, although not based on particular personalities.
A young woman, for her own reasons, refuses to be X-rayed by TSA at an airport is played by Page Purgar in “Too Late,” a sensitive piece written by Allan Maule of Raleigh NC, and directed by Jackson Cooper. Sean Schneider plays the security officer who deals with her.
The show finishes out with “The Third Category,” written by Dennis Goza of Burbank, CA. This play, directed by Susan Emshwiller and starring Mary Rowland and Fred Corlett, has a Faustian plot with an appropriate solution.
Projection designer Joseph Amodel, lighting designer Elizabeth Droessler, and scenic designer James Carnahan deserve kudos for dramatic visual effects. Jeri Lynn Schulke has done a wonderful job producing this entertaining evening. Don’t miss it.
SECOND OPINION: July 10th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8065, July 6th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-insane-logistics-of-producing-the-short-play-festival-10-by-10-in-the-triangle/Content?oid=5048542; and July 6th Hillsborough, NC WHUP/Radio 104.7 interview for “Lights Up”: https://whupfm.org/episode/lights-up-7616-permanent-archive/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud’s July 19th Triangle Review review, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/07/susan-middaughs-just-a-bus-driver-is-the-crowd-and-our-favorite-in-10-by-10/.)
ArtsCenter Stage presents 10 BY 10 IN THE TRIANGLE at 8 p.m. July 15 and 16, 3 p.m. July 17, 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 https://artscenterlive.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S36000000bspqEAA.
SHOW: http://artscenterlive.org/artscenter-stage/10-by-10/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1591374477859351.
VENUE: http://artscenterlive.org/, https://www.facebook.com/artscenterlive, and https://twitter.com/artscenterlive.
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.