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Every year from 2001 to 2016, the ArtsCenter in Carrboro had hosted an annual presentation of what has been perennially billed as the 10 x 10, a showcase of ten 10-minute plays that have been selected from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of entries. This year, 10 x 10 is back! These ten-best selections are each cast and directed by local artists, and all ten are presented each evening. This year, the 10 x 10 has a couple of new aspects: the plays have been selected exclusively from North Carolina playwrights and the evening is being sponsored by a pair of local volunteer groups, OdysseyStage of Chapel Hill and the Cary Playwright's Forum. The show runs first at the ArtsCenter and then moves to the Cary Theatre next weekend.
As stated, all this year's playwrights come from North Carolina, and many of them come from the Triangle. When it is noted, I have included the hometown of the playwright. The authors come from as far away as Concord to the west and Elizabeth City to the east.
First up for the evening is a play titled "Fire and Rain," by Andy Rassler of Concord. The show has four characters and is directed by Annie Taft. The play is set in an out-of-the-way little cafe that Myra (Michelle Kaiser) and Kandi (Catherine Shocket) have happened upon during their jaunt across NC. They are served by Joyce (Kelly Durfey). Myra is busy taking selfies of everything when she suddenly spots (of all people) James Taylor at a nearby table. She is totally freaked; she's a big fan! The only problem is, that's not JT.
Steffi Rubin of Chapel Hill is next up, with a little number she calls "The Closet." Marina Enslen directs just two actresses, sisters Erin (Beth Somerville) and Caroline (Mia Peters). The two are about to go out to lunch when Erin, who is a designer, nixes Caroline's shoes. She tells her she has just the thing and takes her into her walk-in closet. It's vast, and there's only one thing in it: shoes. Caroline cannot believe it. She wonders out loud how anyone can spend so much money on shoes, of all things, and Erin is incensed. But Caroline, who is the elder, says motherhood eliminates discretionary spending. She brings up Mom, gone now, and tells Erin that she was happy. Erin disagrees. What could devolve into familial bickering takes a sudden turn, however, when Erin shows Caroline the perfect pair of shoes.
Rollin Jewett of Holly Springs won his slot with a play he has titled "Socky Tells All." Socky is a sock puppet of a monkey; he is the omnipresent "mascot" of Andy (Jarrett Lefler), who is an adult inmate at a facility for the mentally deficient. Andy's problem is that he cannot relate to the world except through Socky. His favorite nurse, Nurse Todd (Stephanie Turner), tells Andy she knows he is not sick; nevertheless, Andy doesn't want to leave. His home life, he tells her, is hell, and as long as he can stay here, that's exactly what he plans to do. But his hopes may be dashed by the new Chief of Staff, Dr. Baxter (Phil Lewis). Expect the unexpected. Nicola Lefler directs.
"Needle Drop," by James Butler of Raleigh, tells the tale of a man who runs a record store, Trevor (David McEwen), and a young lady who brings him a box of records to evaluate. Erica (Kelly McDaniel), it turns out, is a grad student at the local college, and she tells Trevor that Dr. Rubeniski, her dissertation adviser, was the owner of these records, all of which come from the 1980's. Trevor had Dr. R. as a professor when he was in school, and the two talk about Dr. R. while Trevor looks the records over. A true discologist, he knows almost every record and every group. Both Trevor and Erica miss the man tremendously. Could this simple connection be the start of a budding romance? John Paul Middlesworth directs. This one is rated R for language.
Ed Southern writes his ten-minute play based on an old NC folktale about a young fella named Jack, a staple of NC folktales for more years than I can remember. In this story, "Ol' Jack Spooks the Devil," Jack (Robby Merritt) has staked out what seems to be a circle of land about 16 feet in diameter that is way out in the middle of Nowhere, NC. He is found there by Malachiel "Mal" Hide (Wayne Burtoft), the landowner, who informs Jack that he is trespassing. Jack says no problem, just pay him what he's owed for the work he's done and he'll be on his way. Mal, of course, wants to know just exactly what work Jack had done, and Jack tells him that he has defended this spot of land by chasing off the Devil (Bruce Rosenbloom). Just how he does it is the meat of this play. Southern includes a narrator (Kurt Benrud), who adds, at just the last second, a stunner of an ending. Fred Corlett directs.
Act II begins with a play by Chapel Hill playwright Mark Cornell, who wants his "Theater More Like Baseball." Jane Underhill directs three characters, James (Evit Emerson) and his friends Gaby (Abby Overton) and her husband Sean (Drew Gulino). Gaby and Sean have brought James to the theater to see a comedy, but James is restless. He's hungry, and there's a "No Food or Drink" rule in this theater. James wants to know why theatre can't be more like baseball, where a man can watch and eat at the same time. James is also incensed because there are a lot of other ways in which theatre could be more like baseball. Like, for example, if he's not happy with the play, why can't he tell the actors so, like he could at a baseball game? Turns out James has an entirely different reason for favoring baseball over theatre.
"Please Stay," written by Eric Weil of Elizabeth City, has only one actress. The other character in this play is an ATM machine. Sue (Mia Peters) comes to the ATM for her weekend money but discovers that this particular ATM is actually an Artificial Intelligence Teller. Michael Parker is the voice of this AIT, which strikes up a conversation with Sue. Sue is just a touch put off; she only needed her weekend money. She's ready to take the money and run, but Teller asks her please to stay and talk. Sue is disinclined, so Teller promises her an additional twenty bucks if she will. Of course she accepts. But during the conversation, Sue begins to wonder where this additional money is actually coming from. Teller promises it is not from her account, so Sue wonders where it could be coming from. It's got to come from somewhere, right? Just where is the best part! Sean Malone directs this show as seen from inside the AIT. Fun!
Wim Coleman uses an old quote to title his play, "When the Wolfbane Blooms." Apparently, even the unsuspecting can be turned into a werewolf under certain circumstances. One of these times is when the wolfbane blooms. Dr. Simmons (Christine Rogers) is laid up in bed because, on her way home last night, she was bitten by a dog. But she is rousted from her bed by a knock on the door. It's one of her students, Sydney (Joey DeSena). He's brought her flowers. But it's late and she's not dressed. Nevertheless, Syd is adamant, and Dr. Simmons relents. Syd is adamant because it's nearly time for the newly-full moon to rise, and he has something very important to tell her. Turns out the dog that bit her wasn't a dog: it was a wolf. Syd knows this because he is the wolf that bit her! That's why he's brought the wolfbane; he wants to keep Dr. S. from turning into a werewolf when the full moon rises, in just 15 minutes. Syd tries to keep the doc calm by telling her that most people don't turn, actually; it's only those who are already inclined to be enraged who turn. Unfortunately, Dr. S. is just so inclined. This one's directed by Thom Haynes.
Danielle Fenton directs Hansel and Gretel in David Hopes' "Waiting for the Witch." Hansel (Chesseley Robinson) and his sister, Gretel (Kelly Durfey), are lost in the wood when they come upon a gingerbread house. Hungry, they eat. To an extreme degree. But this time, there's no consequence. We don't know why, but it seems the witch is not home. How do they know it's a witch? Gretel says it has to be a witch, 'cause how else could she keep her house from being eaten by the animals? Hansel is dubious. He says it has to be a witch because, why else would their evil father abandon them in this particular part of the forest? So the witch could devour them, of course. Gretel is just as dubious. So how do they actually find out if the owner of this gingerbread house is actually a witch? Well, they're just going to have to wait, and see.
The evening closes with a purebred NC Southern tale of a middle-aged woman who is deeply religious, married to a rat of a man named JD, and lives in a 30-year-old trailer. In "Rocking the Boat," by Raleigh playwright Laura Atwood, Opal, our heroine (Lisa Levin) is visited in her broken-down old kitchen by Maria (Kelly McDaniel), a young woman who is pregnant. She is here to see Opal about getting her money back for a boat JD sold her husband for $32,395. Opal is, of course, a true Southern hostess, who offers Opal sweet tea. Opal can't take it; it's far too sweet. So Opal offers her a Pepsi, instead! But Maria is not here to be social; she wants that money back. Her husband never told her he had that kind of money, and she intends, once she has returned this boat and gotten her money back, to start over with her new baby, far away from her rat of a husband. Ken Wolpert directs.
These ten shows run the gamut; some are not all they're cracked up to be, but others, like "Rocking the Boat" and "Please Stay," are real diamonds in the rough. My favorite of the evening is "Ol' Jack Spooks the Devil." Not only does director Corlett have a real knack for this kind of story, but his selection of Rosenbloom as his Devil was also absolutely spot on!
The NC 10 x 10 runs through July 22 at the ArtsCenter. It then moves to Cary and runs Thurs.-Sat., July 26-28, at the Cary Theater. For specific dates and times, please view the sidebar.