The ArtsCenter’ s signature 10 x 10 In the Triangle opened July 8 in Carrboro and, as usual, the place was packed. The draw of seeing ten different plays in one evening makes the 10 by 10 a perennial sellout. The annual event marked a milestone this year in that this is the tenth consecutive season that the 10 by 10 has taken place, with the usual hundreds of short short plays submitted and a culling of only ten to be presented each year. The group presenting the shows did not disappoint, as ten actors presented ten different ten-minute plays for our pleasure.

The evening began with a huge globe astride the shoulders of Atlas (Geraud Staton) as we witnessed Eddie Zipperer’s “Weight of the World,” in which Zeus (Matt Garner) tries to persuade the giant that the Earth may not need his support. “Duo,” by Tom Moran, gave us the moment when superhero Rockman (Brook North) and his sidekick, Gravel Girl (Kelsey Kallang), escape the clutches of Demon (Susannah Hough) to save the day. Justin Warner’s “Ghost Lite” offered us a comic rewrite of the moment that Hamlet (J. Alphonse Nicholson) meets the ghost of his father (Geraud Staton). The Triangle’s own John Paul Middlesworth offered up his entry in “Exit Right,” as a dying Sage (Matt Garner) tries vainly to offer up his Famous Last Words. Rounding out Act 1 was Tom Deiker’s “Dating 101,” as a shy couple are guided by a pair of guardian angels through their first date.

Act 2 gave us “Suspense,” by Ian Finley, as murder and mayhem invade a quiet family night at home. In “The Sum of Your Experience,” written by Trace Crawford, Chris Chiron and Brook North put a whole new spin on the hold-up. We then witnessed “The Beginning,” by Tom Swift, wherein a pair of lovers (Matt Garner and J. Alphonse Nicholson) gets to the root of beginning a relationship. That play was followed quickly by Guadalupe Flores’ “The Coyote Stratagem,” as another couple (Kelsey Gidion and Page Purgar) turns a new page in their tempestuous five-year affair. The evening was rounded out by “Jinxed,” by K. Alexa Mavromatis, where we meet a post-apocalyptic couple (Gerard Staton and Kelsey Kallang) who wrangle over what little food they can scrounge.

Most of the plays went for laughs, much to the delight of this packed house, with the winner of the evening being “Ghost Lite.” Staton’s Hamlet Sr. is met with just a touch of resistance in his melancholy son, as Nicholson gives us a wry look at just what the ghost is asking him to do. Excellent costumes by Katie Anderson and the assistance of some spooky fog gave us the perfect setting, and the interchange between these two was sharp and crisp. I personally coveted Staton’s beautiful and well-handled broadsword, which was the only prop in the scene. Kudos to props designer Julie Mayberry for finding the Real McCoy.

Two plays gave us comic looks at very real and painful situations. “The Beginning” examines the uncomfortable moment after, as two human beings face each other after their first tryst is consummated. Nicholson and Garner give us just the right amount of shyness and desire as they work out what happens next in their budding relationship. Presenting what might be the antithesis of this work is “The Coyote Stratagem,” as a long-term relationship must change if the two are to go on together. There is comedy aplenty in both, but there was a real sense of longing and tenderness under both works.

The one work that struck this reviewer as the most serious of the evening was “The Sum of Your Experience,” which gave us a very unusual kind of a stick-up. Chiron is chilling as a thief who wants not your money but your life; he robs North of his identity rather than his worldly goods. The scene ends with a real twist that makes this one the winner in the Drama category.

The ArtsCenter is to be congratulated on sustaining this welcome summer event through ten seasons. To celebrate the event, the ArtsCenter will present, for two weekends immediately following their tenth annual run, a collection of the Best of 10 by 10. Originator of the series, Lynden Harris, joined this year’s panel to help select the ten best 10 by 10‘s, and you can see them July 22-31. The very best of ten years will be the fare as the ArtsCenter celebrates a decade of the short short, one act play. Make your reservations now; this show will sell out.

See the sidebar for details.