The ArtsCenter opened its 13th annual 10 By 10 In the Triangle this weekend, giving its audience ten ten-minute plays in the space of a couple of hours. As usual, the house was packed for this opening, which draws playwrights from across the country. The plays ran the gamut this year, but emphasis was on the theatre, plays about the theatre and playwrights writing plays.

Act I began with “What the Theatre Is All About – A Master Class with Vincent Van Buren” by Cory Rieger of Los Angeles. The play featured David Berberian as an Actor with a capital A, a self-important puff of a man who believes himself to be Master of the Local Stage. He is challenged for this role by another Actor, played by Fred Corlett, and the two have an Act-off, in which an independent judge, Lazarus Simmons, decides which of the two is Master. This was a hilarious send-up of the local stage and a fun opening to this year’s program.

Next was “The Interpreter,” a play about the Internet and dating, by Bridget Erin of Denham Springs, LA. Caroline Strange as the interpreter gives the subtext and hidden meanings of what is said between two people on a first date, and hilarity ensues. Jim Muscater and Terra Hodge play the daters, who decide that the hidden meanings of this interpreter are to be left behind them.

“Going Viral,” by Brandon M. Crose, gave us a pair of parents who have decided that their 16-year-old son is now ready to launch himself into the Internet, and have designed for him a Facebook portfolio. David Berberian plays Dad, Page Purgar is Mom, and Jorge Donoso plays the son, who is the only adult in the room. After mom and dad have explained what they have done for their budding Internet star, the son tells them that once he has examined this page thoroughly, he will decide what punishment is appropriate for the two!

Jordan Rawlins of Los Angeles gave us the next play, “Canyon,” as a couple (Lazarus Simmons and Caroline Strange) meets a young woman (Jillian Lea) at the rim of the Grand Canyon. This young woman announces that she intends to jump off the canyon rim. Her intention is not death, but a launch into the ether, as she intends to fly. After some enervating back and forth, the couple, in an attempt to dissuade her, tells her that they will jump with her. At the critical moment, neither woman jumps, but the man not only jumps, he actually succeeds in doing exactly what the young woman believes would happen – he flies!

“Ten Minute Life” by Elaine Smith of Middleburg, FL, gave us a man of advanced years (Fred Corlett) who is attempting to write a ten-minute play. His live-in partner (Mary Rowland) is here to give him help, which is completely distracting. She announces that she loves him, which throws him into a tizzy. The impossibility of being able to cram life into ten minutes is discussed, as well as the man’s inability to return love and her ability to achieve it. She overcomes his fears and he accepts her advancement, proving to both of them that something real actually can take place in the space of ten minutes.

Act II began with “This is not a Play,” by Chas Belov of San Francisco. We are presented with two women (Jillian Lea and Page Purgar) who regale us with the idea that what they are doing is not a play, it has not been written by a playwright, and it does not have any aspect of the playwright’s craft – proving by example that it is indeed exactly what they say it ain’t!

“The Wisdom of Pirates” came next, by Amanda Petefish-Schrag of Maryville, MO, who tries to tell us that an eye patch allows a pirate – and anyone else who wears it – to see more clearly. Terra Hodge tells her husband, Jim Moscater, that she sees things more clearly now that she wears this patch, which makes him scoff. The intimate back and forth that ensues gives Moscater reason to believe, and when his wife discards the patch, he picks it up and wears it himself.

“Lost in Thought” is a scintillating work by Christopher Lockheardt that gives us the thoughts of a man doing a mindless chore – washing dishes – and what he thinks as his mind wanders. Jorge Donoso is thinking of the girl he just broke up with (Caroline Strange) and the episodes that follow are the advancements he attains as he works to rid himself of this painful experience.

Terence Patrick Hughes gave us our next presentation, “Recess at Our Lady of the Bleeding Heart, Mind and Spirit – Once Reformed.” David Berberian teaches science and math to boys at the school; Page Purgar teaches English to the girls. The sexes do not mingle at Our Lady, and the two talk to each other across a barrier that separates the playground. It is possible that these two may have a meeting of the minds, but that meeting is dashed by his admission that he has accepted another teaching assignment, which she was offered and turned down.

The conclusion of the night was a play titled “A Streaker Named Desire,” by Carl A. Rossi of Boston. This play explores the intricacies of Tennessee Williams, as Jorge Donoso plays the Streaker, who has come to meet a Southern Gentleman of advancing years who walks with a limp and has one foot in the grave (Fred Corlett). The streaker’s brother, Death, also appears, and Corlett’s character must decide which of the two men he will embrace, Desire or Death. He chooses Desire, and gains years on his life as he departs with same, losing his limp and gaining immense energy. In contrast, Mary Rowland, who plays a madwoman, confronts and accepts Death as her suitor, and the two lay down together as the lights fade.

Only three of these works have been performed before, making seven of this year’s ten world premieres. The audience was right with these ten actors as they performed these ten very varied works, and the emphasis of the night, the playwright and the play, struck just the right note for the evening. The best of these ten would be Rossi’s “A Streaker Named Desire,” as the playwright displayed his knowledge of the genre and Tennessee Williams in particular. Director Josh Benjamin easily meshed seven actors onstage, giving us the largest cast of the evening. A close second would be Smith’s “Ten Minute Life,” giving us the angst of the playwright and the joys of the moment. Director Chris Cheron led two veteran actors through a most enjoyable romp, and concluded with a most satisfying dénouement.

The ArtsCenter’s annual 10 By 10 in the Triangle runs each weekend in July. For more details on dates and times, please view the sidebar.

*Note: For a letter to the editor concerning this review, click here.