OdysseyStage Theatre’s 2021 NC 10by10 Play Festival Is an Evening of Delightful Treats

EDITOR’S NOTE: Social-distancing protocols
are in place (see NOTE 1 below).

There is a saying that “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” — to which I might add: “You don’t fully appreciate what you lost ’til it’s back.”

Because COVID-19 forced last year’s production into the virtual purgatory of Zoom, such was the case for me when I attended Friday’s opening night (LIVE) performance of the 2021 NC 10by10 Play Festival, produced by OdysseyStage Theatre in The ArtsCenter of Carrboro’s Earl & Rhoda Wynn Theater. Beginning with the oh-so-welcome “welcoming speech” (delivered by co-producer Charles Machalicky), all the way to the cleverly staged, waste-no-time curtain call, this is an evening of delightful treats.

Patterned on the annual 10X10 in the Triangle (which The ArtsCenter produced from 2001 to 2016), this festival is comprised of ten 10-Minute Plays, penned by 10 playwrights (see NOTE 2 below), performed by 10 actors (see NOTE 3 below), and directed by 10 directors (see NOTE 4 below). (Furthermore, on “Throwback Thursday” (Sept. 23rd), ticket prices revert to the original 10 bucks.)

Unlike the original 10X10, the 2021 festival showcases the work of North Carolina playwrights. In the “two hours’ traffic of [their] stage,” the company skillfully tells 10 interesting stories. Most are funny; many are thought-provoking; a few are “epic”; a couple might even be described as “theological.” All are entertaining, and all are skillfully produced.

One advantage of a 10-minute play festival is, if you start to feel that one play is not your cup-of-tea, no problem — another is coming right up.

Would you like a meta-dramatic spoof of movie-making? Perhaps, a soul-searching discussion of family-(and/or neighborhood-)values? Or a glimpse into the personal realities and raw emotions associated with the military draft lottery? Maybe a “saunter down memory lane,” laced with zingers? How about some hysterical philosophical/political questions that come up when FEMA tries to evacuate a few “good ole boys”? (Caution: This last one just might offer a bit of contemporary social commentary.)

Having caught our breath during intermission, let’s visit a pair of suburban good ole boys and laugh at their reductio ad absurdum attitudes and theories; let’s follow the evil-fighting adventures of a truly epic super-hero; let’s be flies-on-the-wall at a Sunday evening might-be-Amish “date.” Then we can witness a slice of the life of a mother of a not-so-appreciative multi-handicapped young woman. And, finally, let’s pull up a chair as God and Satan square off one more time, with the immortal soul of a good man at stake.

The entire evening is briskly paced. Many bits of witty dialogue and pieces of profundity emerge. Be prepared to be ambushed by such concepts as:

  • “I am a legend, and it’s contagious.”
  • “Snow always melts, and flood waters always subside.”
  • “I don’t even bathe anymore.”
  • “More evil than Slippy?”
  • “The milk sickness.”

And watch for unexpected references to such phenomena as a “bit on the side,” a “quantum leap,” “it’s an election year,”

Recent N.C. 10by10s have made use of many more actors, but the decision to return to the original limit of 10 actors adds yet another delightful aspect — with 10 actors covering more than 30 roles, each actor creates three or more characters; and we are treated to a showcase of a wider spectrum of their talents.

Production values are all sound. Choices of music seemed to prefigure each of the plays. And transitions between the plays are well-executed.

From the Department of Picky-Picky:

The first play of the evening featured its title posted on the wall. While its presence was “part of the plot,” it was a welcome reminder to me that “this play is titled ________,” and a similar reminder would have been much appreciated for the remaining nine plays. Excuses aside, I am certain that the thirty-plus creative minds associated with a production like this could easily come up with imaginative ways to accomplish this.

As impressed as I was by the appropriateness of the choice of music, I think I would have liked it even more if a snatch of each song (that had already caught my attention) could have been re-visited at the top (or bottom) of its “companion” play, perhaps as the set was being changed.

A final word: if you think you spot a famous musician (who recorded one of the featured songs) on the stage at one point, you are probably correct.

2021 NC 10by10 Play Festival runs through Sunday, Sept. 26th — at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.


  • All attendees are required to have their temperature checked prior to entering the theater, and to wear a mask or face covering at in-person shows.
  • All seats in the theater are disinfected prior to each performance.
  • All performers and crew are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and are following Orange County Health Department guidelines regarding COVID safety during the performance.

NOTE 2: This year’s playwrights include Clinton Festa, Vivian Lopez, Bill Cissna, Lauren Walker, Chuck Keith, Mark Cornell, Thomas Buhrman, Bonnie Antosh, Debra Kaufman, and Teddy Durgin.

NOTE 3: The 2021 festival’s actors include Gerald Louis Campbell, Dani Coan, Evit Emerson, Maria Piskor, Christian Presley, Gale Riggs, Gus Vieweg, Debbie Vu, Travis Walsh, and Jean Wentz.

NOTE 4: This year’s directors include Jeff Aguiar, Karen Dacons-Brock, Danielle Fenton, Mia Peters, Annie Taft, Rachel Klem, Grace Siplon, Paul Baerman, and Noelle Barnard-Azarelo.

2021 NC 10BY10 PLAY FESTIVAL (In Person 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23-26) (OdysseyStage Theatre at The ArtsCenter of Carrboro’s Earl & Rhoda Wynn Theater). 2021 LINEUP: Click here and scroll down. OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.nc10by10.org/. TRAILER: https://youtu.be/47dYMwLvgVU. TICKETS: $10-$20 (on “Throwback Thursday” (Sept. 23rd), ticket prices revert to the original 10 bucks). Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: odysseystage@gmail.com and boxoffice@artscenterlive.org. PLEASE DONATE TO: OdysseyStage Theatre.


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 his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.