The ArtsCenter opened a very special two-week run of it’s signature “10 by 10 in the Triangle” this weekend, celebrating ten years of bringing the area ten of the best 10-minute plays every year. This celebration brings to Carrboro the very best of ten years worth of these short, short works.

Not surprisingly, the list of the best ran to twenty-five, rather than ten. These were selected by the three directors of ArtsCenter Stage over the years, Lynden Harris (the founder of the Festival), Emily Ranii, and Jeri Lynn Schulke. This list of twenty-five was then presented to the directors assembled for the Festival, who chose which ten of the list to produce for this showing.

Over a span of ten years, it is quite possible for any one playwright to have produced more than one play at the Festival. Even considering the long and anonymous selection process (there were over 900 entries for this year’s 10 by 10, alone), a good playwright can turn up more than once. So the best playwrights for this particular Festival include three who were able to get not one, but two, plays into the first Best Of 10 by 10. These three are Matt Casarino (Larry Gets The Call, Green Eggs and Mamet), Doug Reed (Exit Interview, The Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music) and Mike Folie (Bluff, Dust). The other playwrights making the Ten Best List include Mark Harvey Levine (The Rental), Barbara Lindsay (Fighting Mister Right), Christopher Lockheardt (Helluva Poker Face) and Patrick Gabridge (Ship of Fools).

Larry Gets the Callpresents us with Larry, an Average Guy (Eric Swenson), who gets a trip to Heaven to meet God (Barbette Hunter), only to discover that God is a Black Woman who uses a crutch. Bluff gives us a father (John Boni) and daughter (Nicolle Quenelle) at odds with each other; he’s been dismissed from the Police for a mental affliction, and has given up. His wife is dead, his daughter lives with her aunt, and the house has gone to Hades. She has come to snap him out of it; but with a gun on hand, these two may bluff their way into disaster. The Rental is about instant love, as Morris Nagel gets A Boyfriend for a Day in the form of Thaddaeus Edwards. Fighting Mister Right is just that, as She (Jenny Wales) won’t sleep with Him (Greg Hohn) until they’ve had three fights. So he picks a fight. Rounding out act 1 is Green Eggs and Mamet, as the well-known Dr. Seuss story meets playwright David Mamet. Sam (Brad Schnurr) meets a man in a bar (Eric Swenson) and they grapple verbally over the qualities of green eggs and ham.

Act 2 Begins with Helluva Poker Face, as four guys play a friendly game of poker. Just how friendly it may be depends on your point of view. Ship of Fools finds two stranded women in a rowboat (Jillian Holmquist and Jenny Wales) as they role-play over what might be the last day of their lives. Exit Interview pits a man (Eric Swenson) who is fed up with his supervisor against the Human Resources woman from Hell (Barbette Hunter) as she tries to fit his dissatisfaction into Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. Dust gives us a typical man (Brad Shnurr) and wife (Morrisa Nagel) as they have a bedtime chat about dust. The evening closes out with my favorite, The Idiot’s Guide to Classical Music, wherein New Bride (Nicole Quenelle) fights with New Groom (Eric Swenson) on the day after, punctuated with the arrival of the Bellhop (Thaddaeus Edwards). The stroke of genius here is that there is not a word of dialog — the entire soundtrack to this play is classical music.

Many of the 10 actors who perform these plays have returned to reprise their original roles, including Thaddaeus Edwards, who performed in the very first 10 by 10 in 2002. Adding their names to this list of Ten Best is an array of well-known directors, including such notables as Tony Lea, Joseph Megel, Jerry Davis, Julie Fishell and Derrick Ivey.

10 by 10 In The Triangle has become a mainstay at the ArtsCenter that continually sells to SRO crowds, and tonight’s show was no exception. The concept has developed staying power, as this “best of” performance attests. This coming January, the process of choosing ten new plays will begin for 10 by 10 2012. If the past is any indication, it will be a daunting task.

The Best of 10 X 10 continues through 7/31. For details, see the sidebar.