10 x 10 x 10 – A Perfect You Know
When I hear that a small theatre is producing a play festival, generally, I steer clear. There’s nothing more torturous than sitting through several badly written, indifferently acted, “really needs to be workshopped”, not-ready-for-prime-time short plays executed with piss-poor production values. And that, unfortunately, is what these things are like, more often than not. Eh, shrug, you say: “Oh, well, that’s the way it goes, I guess.”
And then there’s Fells Point Corner Theatre’s 10x10x10, which, I am delighted to report, is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Ten plays, ten actors, ten minutes each, one perfect evening of entertainment. Saturday night, opening weekend, FPCT’s intimate second floor theater was totally sold out. And I was so fucking happy to see not one empty seat in the house. It was that good.
First, this is one stellar lineup of supershort plays*. Every single one could stand on its own. I was seeing strong writing, themes, arcs, and character development all over the place. The evening opened with Andrea Carey’s Jump, a pas de deux that takes place on a bridge, with an unexpected turn of events at the close. Then it’s the touching, almost tear-jerking, Henry by Mario Correa (couple who broke up years ago collide on a city street to reveal their respective histories) and Susan Middaugh’s When I Fall In Love, It Will Be…, a tender story of the struggle of aging and Alzheimer’s. Monument, by Mark Scharf, centering on two friends who awkwardly reminisce with a great deal more than meets the eye, is contemporary and thoughtful. Richard Pauli’s Opportunity Knocks is funny, hyper-surreal, and touches on the deep challenge of sexism and workplace dynamics.
The evening takes a somber turn at Justin Lawson Isett’s For the Foot of a Hill as a couple of soldiers, one German, one English, stumble across each other during a cease-fire Christmas Eve of 1914. Compos Mentis by Marilyn Millstone, is another play on the topic of aging, hilariously and honestly highlighting a set of elderly parents attempting to thwart their children’s grand plans concerning “Silver Glades” condos. Eat Your Greens, and Other Commandments by Alice Stanley, set at a family dinner, is a meditation on just how important it is to pay attention to your children’s needs as they grow. Nearing the end of the night is Whatlaw by Tavish Forsynth, an impressive solo piece that examines the inner-monologue of a man with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The evening closes with Pete Taylor’s Babo and the Bird, a rollicking fun little ditty about a couple whose dynamic is ignited when the bird that they are pet-sitting accidentally flies away.
I’m being really honest when I say that I thought all of the plays were absolutely stellar, a rare example of no weak links. FPCT does an exceptional job curating a full evening of theatre that does not stagnate. 10 x 10 x 10 keeps you on your toes, makes you laugh, makes you cry. Performances were strong all the way around. I was especially impressed with the direction (Michael B. Zemeral) and cast (Holly Elizabeth Gibbs and David Shoemaker, solid luminaries of the Baltimore small stage) of Henry and of Compos Mentis (Dianne Hood, Peter Wilkes and, again, Holly Elizabeth Gibbs). I also truly loved Babo and the Bird, directed by Howard Berkowitz, with Zach Bopst and Barbara Madison Hauck. Design is simple, which is wise. The show is performed in the style of black box rep and the minimal set of black door and archway works just fine. Lights by Charles Danforth III are adequate, even if the use of LED backlight produces a lot of glare for the audience.
THE BOTTOM LINE: 10 x 10 x 10 is ten times the fun I thought it would be, and I was so pleasantly surprised. The pieces play together in a symphony of theatricality with no farty tuba. The actors are well-cast, work hard, kick ass and the venue is a gem. The only negative I saw is the lack of supporting information in the program. It would have been nice to have all the data about each play. Small potatoes, though, so go see it.
*The play selection is as follows:
Jump, by Andrea Carey
Henry, by Mario Correa
When I Fall In Love, It Will Be…, by Susan Middaugh
Monument, by Mark Scharf
Opportunity Knocks, by Richard Pauli
For the Foot of a Hill, by Justin Lawson Isett
Compos Mentis, by Marilyn Millstone
Eat Your Greens, and Other Commandments, by Alice Stanley
Whatlaw, by Tavish Forsynth
Babo and the Bird, by Pete Taylor
Running at Fells Point Corner Theatre until June 12th.
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