The ten winners of the 9th Annual 10 By 10 Festival in the Triangle at the ArtsCenter opened their three-week run this weekend. This is the ninth year running that the ArtsCenter has presented its Festival, and a whopping number of entries were pored over to reduce the count to the ten seen onstage. As is the theme of the annual presentation, ten actors play characters in ten plays that run ten minutes each; this year’s plays have veteran faces and new ones, each of which has a stable full of characters to bring to life onstage.
This year’s theme seems to be Conflict; there’s at least one in each show. In the first play, "Closet Case," by Judd Lear Silverman, a Man (Kenneth De Abrew) comes home to his humble abode to find, quite by accident, that there is a Woman (Lori Mahl) living in his clothes closet. The conflict: she wants to stay; he wants her gone. The man wins his case, but not before he regrets his decision.
In "The Size of Furniture," by Benjamin Adair Murphy, a Saleswoman (played with polish by Sarah Donnell) tries to sell a piece of furniture to a couple who has reserved the piece online. Trouble is, this couple (Chris Chiron and Morrisa Nagel) fights about everything, and they fight dirty, too. The problem isn’t over the furniture; it’s over the SIZE of the piece. Petty but fierce, nonetheless. When it seems that the Saleswoman settles the “dispute,” the couple is all lovey-dovey again — until it is discovered that there is no stock of that unit available. Nagel and Chiron are spot-on in their body blows to the ego, but afterwards, when they make up, it doesn’t quite mesh; we can see the end coming.
"The Banana Trial," by Eddie Zipperer, pits one scientist (John Allore) against another (Lori Mahl) as they attempt to see if a pair of orangutans, Jo-Jo (Dan Oliver) and Millie (Julie Oliver), can imitate human reasoning by starting a car in which they have been placed. Turns out the two are quite adept at figuring out what these silly humans want; they just take their time in doing so. This is hysterically funny, especially Julie Oliver as Millie, who is a free spirit and completely unabashed. If you are paying attention, on-stage guitarist Byron Settle brings down the curtain with a quick lick from the Beatles’ "Baby, You Can Drive My Car" for an extra laugh.
Affairs of the heart bring us conflict in "Fighting Mr. Right," by Barbara Lindsay. After a terrific date, Maura (Jenny Wales) brings Joe (Estes Tarver) to her apartment. They are really attracted to one another; but she puts him off. She informs him that she refuses to sleep with any man until they have been together long enough to have three fights. Tarver and Wales proceed to have a knock-down drag-out over the notion that gets Joe evicted; but before he leaves, he gives her a kiss and says, “that’s one!”
The best is saved for last in act one as "30 Love," by Terry McFadden, takes the stage. But the match here is far flung from tennis; it seems that a lawyer (John Allore) and his ex-wife (Lori Mahl) are attempting to settle their own divorce without the benefit of outside help. Bones of contention are visitation, the summer cottage, and the Jaguar. This is the epitome of clash as the two spar over every detail, sometimes with daggers, and sometimes with detante. Mahl is coiled tightly and Allore is businesslike but impatient; he wants this divorce over and settled. After all, they both have significant others by this time. Laughs and bruises ensue as the two battle it out amid conflicting material goods and conflicting emotions, as well. It’s the perfect act one closer.
Act two begins with "Somewhere Out There," by David Rabinowitz. Carlos (De Abrew) is the sole discoverer of an alien life form (Nagel, Dan Oliver, Tarver) that communicates across space. His conflict is whether to try and save them from fading away when he is so helpless, himself. He elicits the help of a young woman (Donnell) who believes him, and manages, through the simple means of “saying hello,” to right the downward slide of the aliens’ slow demise. The whole episode is tightly narrated by Jenny Wales. This one is for the thinkers among us, and we are warmed by the fact that this simple act of reaching out is so effective.
"Stuck," by Christopher Lockheardt, is a quick and physical exchange between a young man (Allore) and a young woman (Julie Oliver) who get caught together in the close confines of a revolving door. All sorts of physical miscues fly as the two attempt, in front of a growing crowd, to extricate themselves. Hilarity is the key, here. After some real gymnastics, the two manage to escape; but by then they are so hot for each other that, in trying to get together, they happily end up in the same predicament!
The conflict in "The Miles High Club" (written by Doug Brook) is between a NASA consultant (Donnell) and a couple (Dan Oliver and Nagel) who are anxious to be chosen for a space mission to Mars. The crux of the matter is that the married couple, on the three year mission, will be expected to perform their marital duties as guinea pigs in the “firsts in space” category. Many, many points are discussed, but finally the contract is ready to be signed. Only when the Mrs. reads the fine print, is the deal off. This one is a hoot, and the three really sell it.
"Don’t Eat the Yellow Picasso" (James C. Ferguson) is an abstract, indeed. Two different shades of yellow, Xanthia (Julie Oliver) and Lemon (Jenny Wales), are plopped down on the painter’s pallet in preparation for the artist to paint a picture of a model. The two can see the nude before them, and discuss why they are chosen for this work. Lemon is overpowered by Xanthia, whose deeper, richer color makes Lemon “pale” in comparison. But Lemon wins this one, sort of; while she rids herself of Xanthia, she gets the royal treatment as Blue changes her to Green. Bummer.
Finally, in "Good God Enters Flossing," by J. Stephen Bradley, three New York men who share an apartment in Brooklyn awake one morning to find the Ark of the Covenant sitting in their living room. The conflict: how to dispose of this wondrous apparition. Josh (De Abrew) and Steve (Tarver) turn to Billy (Chiron) because he’s Jewish; but every idea they come up with is lacking. They finally decide to solve their dilemma by opening the Ark to see what’s inside. It’s the tale of the Second Coming, set down in the Big Apple. The message: “Love thy neighbor as thyself. The rest is commentary.”
The ArtsCenter does it again with ten jewels of the one-act variety. And, as ticket sales proved Friday night, the Triangle knows what’s good out there. Sales are going fast so make your reservations to see these ten tenners now. Shows run through Sunday, July 25. See our calendar for details.