For a time Saturday night, it seemed that everybody in Carrboro, NC except the fire marshal was packed into the main theater at The ArtsCenter to view the Fourth Annual Ten by Ten in the Triangle festival and hobnob with the playwrights, directors, and performers afterwards. The wine and punch and finger food are gone; but Wednesday-Sunday, for just $10, local theatergoers have the opportunity to sample 10 new 10-minute plays some of them R rated (for language) impressively staged and performed by some of the brightest stars in the Triangle’s theatrical firmament.

This pleasing potpourri of short plays, performed in two five-play segments on scenic designer Rob Hamilton’s versatile set, with able assists from costume designer and properties mistress Tracey Broome and production manager and sound designer Leslie Stewart, includes:

• “Naked Mole Rats in the World of Darkness,” written by Rockland County, NY dramatist Mike Folie and directed by Julie Fishell of PlayMakers Repertory Company: It’s all happening at the zoo in this urbane comedy in which a nervous wife (Nicole Farmer) just can’t stop talking. She numbs the ears of her long-suffering husband (Mark Jeffrey Miller) with a seemingly endless harangue about anything and everything that comes to mind, from the desirability of taking their kids to see the zoo’s Naked Mole Rats to the disgusting prospects of the family being forced to chow down on hot dogs. When he finally interrupts her latest diatribe with a shocking announcement, she is speechless.

• “Insomnia,” written by Roxbury, MA playwright Patrick Gabridge and directed by Transactors Improv Co. director Greg Hohn: In this brilliantly imaginative and wonderfully whimsical comedy, Katja Hill can’t get a wink of sleep, thanks to a hilarious all-night-long series of comical but all-too-familiar disruptions and distractions, many of them impishly impersonated by Eryn Makepeace, who like Hill is a consummate comedienne.

• “Key to the Mystic Halls of Time,” written by Delaware dramatist Matt Casarino and directed by Greg Hohn: All night long, two bleary-eyed but hopelessly obsessed video gamers (Steven Warnock and Ryan Brock) team up online to negotiate an interactive Dungeons & Dragons-like mystical maze, trying to find an elusive “key” that will allow them to win the game. Neither Warnock’s impatient wife (Becca Johnson) nor Brock’s disdainful roommate (Torrey Lawrence) can get these fantasy fanatics to log off in this royally entertaining offbeat comedy that ranks right at the top of the evening’s lineup. When Johnson dangles the prospect of steamy sex, she strikes out. When Lawrence distracts Brock with a juicy description of a woman that he wants his roommate to meet, he has better luck.

• “Hit Me,” written by Boston playwright Patrick Cleary and directed by Thomas “TeKay” King of The Carolina Theatre: Younger brother (Scott Franco) show up in the middle of the night to visit older brother (Joe Brack) and, boom, he hits him with a haymaker in this mildly amusing slugfest in which there is a diabolical motive behind all the fratricidal fighting.

• “Turtle Shopping,” written by San Francisco dramatist Scott McMorrow and directed by Julie Fishell: In this endearing domestic drama, three generations of a Russian immigrant family grandmother (Nicole Farmer), mother (Jane Hallstrom), and daughter (Katja Hill) gather to reminisce and discuss all the little things, including a hideous-tasting but inexpensive and nourishing borscht soup, that bind this loving family together, generation and after generation.

• “Costumes,” written by Greensboro, NC playwright Stephen Hyers and directed by ArtsCenter Stage artistic director Lynden W. Harris: This off-the-wall sex comedy chronicles the meeting, in a city park, between a soldier (Ryan Brock) inexplicably dressed in a combination of Army and Navy uniform parts and a hot-to-trot and dressed-to-thrill streetwalker (Eryn Makepeace) determined to seduce him into having public sex. There’s more here than meets the eye, and Brock and Makepeace make the most of this delightful romp on the wild side.

• “The Morons,” written by New York City dramatist Kelly McAllister and directed by TeKay: Two high-school classmates one straight (Steven Warnock) and one gay (Torrey Lawrence) have an increasingly uncomfortable reunion in which painful secrets surface, threatening their continued status as best friends. “The Morons” suffers from comparison with the other scripts showcased here.

• “Dress Black,” written by Santa Monica, CA playwright Ellen Lewis and directed by Andy Hayworth of Burning Coal Theatre Company in Raleigh: On the morning of a family funeral, a grieving brother (Mark Jeffrey Miller) tries to rouse and, ultimately, to dress his near-catatonic sister (Katja Hill). “Dress Black” may only be a 10-minute play, but it goes on way too long.

• “Inheritance,” written by Chicago dramatist Laura Schellhardt and directed by Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis: Something very, very weird is happening here as two women (Nicole Farmer and Becca Johnson) are trapped in a dilapidated bathroom the only part of her parents home that Farmer inherited. Like “Dress Black,” “Inheritance” runs out of interesting ideas long before the final curtain.

• “Marginalia,” written by Durham, NC playwright Kendall Rileigh and directed by Rob Hamilton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Communication Studies: This charming marital comedy consists of the highly amusing interior monologues of a Golden Guy (Allan Vesley) and a Golden Girl (Jane Hallstrom), married for eons and eons, outwardly prickly toward each other, but inwardly still very much in love. He’s scribbling obsessively on a tablet composing something that sounds a lot like a rough draft for a Personals Ad. She’s ostensibly reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy in the original Russian only she doesn’t know a word of Russian and is actually perusing the intriguing marginalia written in English every few pages. “Marginalia” ends this latest installment of Ten by Ten in the Triangle on a very high note indeed.

Second Opinion: July 20th Chapel Hill, NC Front Row Center review by Alan R. Hall:

The ArtsCenter presents “Ten by Ten in the Triangle” Thursday-Saturday, July 21-23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 24, at 3 p.m. at 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina. $10. 919/929-2787. The ArtsCenter:

PREVIEW: The ArtsCenter: “Ten by Ten in the Triangle” -Ten 10-Minute Plays for $10

by Robert W. McDowell

The fourth annual “Ten by Ten in the Triangle” summer festival of short plays, presented July 14-17 and 21-24 by The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC, is a delicious international smorgasbord of 10 new 10-minute plays for only $10. Some of the Triangle’s leading directors and performers will participate in bringing these brand-new scripts to life, says ArtsCenter Stage artistic director Lynden W. Harris.

“A 10-minute play is a bolt of theatrical lightning,” claims Jon Jory, who founded the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville in 1976. “It doesn’t last long, but its power can stand your hair on end.”

Lynden Harris says a panel of theater artists and educators selected the 10 winning one-acts for “Ten by Ten in the Triangle” from more than 400 submissions from around the world.

In its preshow publicity, The ArtsCenter asks “Got ten? There’s a body in the bedroom. A bathroom full of secrets. A kitchen filled with borscht. Not to mention: A stolen trumpet, naked mole rats, and a mother who hasn’t slept in … years….

“These are characters caught in situations just beyond their control: two brothers who come to blows over the worst decision of their lives; three generations of women who fall apart, come together, and fall apart again; two best friends work through their drunken stupor to find a …. [T]hese are a few of the dire situations we find ourselves engaged in during the evening. Some of the playwrights can claim a host of national and international awards; others, including one native North Carolinian, are just beginning their careers. But each play offers the audience a compelling, memorable, and dynamic experience. In less than ten minutes.”

Titles, authors, and thumbnail descriptions of the plays all provided by The ArtsCenter include:

• “Costumes” by Greensboro, NC playwright Stephen Hyers: “Sunday in the park with … George? Josh? Or maybe it was Jim?”

• ”Dress Black” by Santa Monica, CA dramatist Ellen Lewis: “When words fail.”

• “Hit Me” by Boston playwright Patrick Cleary: “Under cover of love, two brothers draw blood.”

• “Inheritance” by Chicago dramatist Laura Schellhardt: “Where there’s a will there’s a way. Or, at least, a way in.”

• “Insomnia” by Roxbury, MA playwright Patrick Gabridge: “To sleep, perchance to dream … it’s a mother’s only hope.”

• “Key to the Mystic Halls of Time” by Delaware dramatist Matt Casarino: “Battila the Hunter and Sword Cleaver searches for the meaning of life. In a keystroke.”

• “Marginalia” by Durham, NC playwright Kendall Rileigh, a North Carolina native: “With a marriage, it’s War and Peace till death us do part.”

• “Naked Mole Rats in the World of Darkness” by Rockland County, NY dramatist Mike Folie: “A husband, a wife, and the educational power of hot dogs at the zoo.”

• “The Morons” by New York City playwright Kelly McAllister: “More than you ever wanted to know about your best friend’s sex life. Way more.”

• “Turtle Shopping” by San Francisco dramatist Scott McMorrow: “Three generations of women will tell you: people adjust. Even to borscht.”

The plays’ directors will include Jerome Davis of Burning Coal Theatre Company, Julie Fishell of PlayMakers Repertory Company, Rob Hamilton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Communication Studies, Lynden Harris of ArtsCenterStage, Andy Hayworth of Burning Coal, Greg Hohn of Transactors Improv Co., and Thomas King of The Carolina Theatre. Rob Hamilton will serve as set designer for all 10 shows.

The performers will include Ryan Brock, Nicole Farmer, Jane Hallstrom, Katja Hill, Becca Johnson, Torrey Lawrence, Eryn Makepeace, Mark Miller, Allan Vesley, and Steven Warnock.

The ArtsCenter presents “Ten by Ten in the Triangle” Thursday-Saturday, July 14-16 and 21-23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 17 and 24, at 3 p.m. at 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina. $10. 919/929-2787. Note: There will be a special reception for playwrights, audience, cast, and crew following the July 16th performance. The ArtsCenter: