10X10 NEW PLAY FESTIVAL - Barrington Stage Company
The brightest, freshest oasis in the bleakest, wettest Berkshire winter is on Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield – it’s 8th annual 10x10 NEW PLAY FESTIVAL. The ten, ten minute plays, divided by one intermission, feature ten playwrights, who , each with remarkable economy, illuminate some aspect of life - in the everyday, in the home or in the news - as we are living it like it or not in this 2019 winter of discontent.
Wisely, 10X10 bookends the performance with its strongest fare. Most unexpected is the show’s “Opening” sung by the cast of six, who proclaim, in a lyrically sophisticated ditty by Matt Neely a la Shakespeare’s prelude to many of his plays, what is coming to delight the audience. Playwright L. H. Grant’s “Double Entendre” comes first, a sly, clever take on a casual dialogue between the sexes, which wryly turns #MeToo upside down through conversational summersaults in passive-aggressivity - all in under ten minutes.
The short plays, which have just two or three characters, are all good, referencing (emphasis added) topics like Afghan and Vietnam vets, gay marriage, white supremacy, guns in school, environmental activism, organic farming, and parenting. I emphasize reference because none of the work presents these topics literally or wallows pedantically or didactically. All the work is character-driven.
My personal favorites are those, like “Double Entendre”, which plumb comical or pathetic human nature rather than topical events. Most dramatic of the ten is Donald Loftus’s “Eddie and Edna”, slotted as the next-to-the-last play. In a devastating 10 minutes, Loftus not only magnifies the world as seen by an elderly, demented man but also asks the question at the soul of all timeless drama - what is real? The evening ends on a light note, Brad Stysma’s “Cold Feet” that reunites the whole cast in rollicking farce that shows how a modern bride copes with wedding nerves in everybody else but herself.
BSC fluidly assembles the program, and links the plays with thematically appropriate interstitial song. Kudos to the seamless, invisible directorial hands of Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn who divide the director’s job among the ten plays: You can’t tell who directed what. Casting is super. Berkshire theatre patrons will delight in seeing BSC regulars Robert Zuckerman and Peggy Pharr Wilson on the boards again (especially in “Eddie and Edna”). BSC newcomers - Sarah Goeke, Keri Safran, Michael Fell, and DeShawn Mitchell - please come back.