10 x 10 x 10 (Ten Actors, Ten Plays, Ten Minutes Each)

Fells Point Corner Theater’s annual 10 x 10 x 10 is such a spectacle.  If you have never been, please put it on your radar.  You get a sneak peek at these up and coming playwrights, you get swift shifts between plays (the joke is, if you don’t like one, hey, it is over in ten minutes), and some real talent that will carry you for days.

I had the divine pleasure of seeing with two, count them two, fellow critics.  So as if my meanderings weren’t enough- we went out for martinis and mules post shows and had sparkling conversations about the entire offerings.  I am going to spend one paragraph on each, so strap in and get ready to do this thing!

The first play of the night always has a rough road; you have to set the tone.  And Dana Woodson took the stage as a frightful young girl with her poem “prelude to sleep” which she adamantly dictates is not about sex, but about love. Oh its about sex alright, and her indication takes you there more than the poem.  “Open Mic” was cut into three slots, which I was told by someone was indicated by the playwright, MJ Perrin.  Each was a monologue poem delivered by Dana on the side of the stage with only a spotlight shining her amazing locks.  This one was a naughty beginning to the show, but stay put, there’s more coming later.

The second was “The Fine Art of Critiquing the Hang of the Shoe” by DC Cathro.  It was really a play about lovers from different backgrounds trying to explain their past cultural differences.  I was always told shoes over a powerline had a more sinister connotation (to mark the homes where you could buy illegal drugs) but hey, I grew up with a cop as a parent.  So I brought my own pre-conceived notions to the table on this one and had trouble getting past it.  Natalie Dent and Parker Damm seem more like roommates than lovers, but their squabble was genuine and the play had some nice moments, “back then it was good to grow up- but now…” one of y favorite linesJ

The next was “Crito” by Alice Stanley.  I love Alice’s work but this one didn’t resonate with me totally.  I felt like it was a bit Hunger Games ish and I couldn’t quite figure out what the fascination was, but apparently when you had it and pointed at people, they went rigid and followed your commands- so, can I have some of that for classroom management?  Dana Woodson and Barbara Madison Hauk were lovely in this scene but on to the next one.

Fourth was “In Memory of Mary Brown” by Rich Espey. Side note before I begin:  There is a ballot in your program- it asks you to vote for your top 1, 2, and 3.  Apparently the winning playwright wins something (I am guessing a percentage of proceeds).  I will tell you, my friends, which three I voted for, and then I will tell you at the end who my fellow critics voted for.  This got one of my three votes.  In this scene Holly Gibbs as Mary Brown has passed away.  And her friend, Dianne Hood, is left behind.  Her contribution is a plaque, on the back of a chair at the church, that she has taken to vigorously polishing as catharsis for missed opportunities.  As you find out half way through, there was a special connection between the two, and Hood bemoans not telling her what she really meant to her while she was still alive, not as a figment after death.  The best part of this playwright festival, is the budding talent.  This segment was not flawless, but the story had some really beautiful moments and the actresses were spot on.

Next was a recantation of “Open Mic” Part Two this time, where Dana took the stage and this time did a conversation between two different feminists via her hands as if they were hand puppets (but they weren’t).  It was titled, “A Scary Conversation.”  And although funny, not my favorite of the three.  I also really have problems (I am getting kind of old and I’m about to step on my rickety soapbox) of everyone fighting over their differences.  If the world was the same it would be a very boring life.  I like good drinks with friends, and I welcome differing opinions, in the form of polite conversation.  The only way you are exposed to new ideas and truly feel justified in your own, is to listen to others.  Okay, stepped off.  I am good.

The next was “What’s the Point” by Dan Collins.  It was a clunky attempt at waxing philosophical and dabbling in existentialism, but it dove so deep we all had to come up for air before the ten minutes were up.  Although there were some comical moments, they were dry lols instead of hearty laughs (those were for the next one).  Tom Piccin and Jon Meeker perform the scene well, but it is so heavy and loaded with over run sentences it gets lost in itself.  Even the cosmic irony portion where Wilson steps out of a booth to remind you that there are bigger powers at play, I still get lost in the title, what is the point?

And the last one before intermission was a crowd favorite, judging by the applause and audience laughter.  Gibbs and Shoemaker pose as the famous X Files duo, with a twist, Mully and Scolder.  They are investigating wire hangers “While in Parallel Dimension, Clothes Hangers Conspire,” by Richard Pauli. This is exactly the kind of play that is perfect for this type of venue.  It was funny, and farcical, and could not have sustained a full production. Barbara Madison Hauck as the be-wigged, blue eye shadow wearing apartment owner, Ima Earthling, was fun to watch and an absolute joy on stage.  This was a lovely way to segue us into intermission.  Leave em on a high note.

Act II kicked off with “Mr. Shells Gets Shipped East for Beef,” by Rufus Drawlings.  It was a strange play where two men, Shoemaker and Piccin, are in a roomy cattle car being shipped East I assume by the title.  Their conversation is strained and there are lots of awkward pauses, but the audience eventually assumes that the apocalyptic future has run out of beef, and is using humans (soylent green is alive and well!).  In the end Mr. Shells, who refuses to give his first name, even facing death in a cattle car, can’t get over his own personal stake in this caper. (food references were for humor)  Three other actors laid around with blankets on them the whole time to set the scene (this is a role I was born to play).

The next was “Open Mic, Part Three,” a poem delivered again by Dana Woodson, this one entitled “Those were the days.”  This was my favorite of the three in this segment.  It begins with a look down memory lane and then ends with a call to action where they audience is asked what they are willing to argue, and stand for.  It was a lovely piece with fabulous language and imagery.  Sigh.

Next was “Shrimp at the Radisson,” a fun piece where Dickey Wilson plays an eccentric older woman who is meeting a blind date at a hotel bar/restaurant.  As she waits, she receives a rose from the bellhop and reminisces her life and choices to the audience, absolving herself of sin and blame for past transgressions.  When her date arrives, a plucky young Parker Damm, he is young enough to be her son.  She tries to bail on the date, but is persuaded to stay by his touching innocence.  Again, was this play perfect?  No, but it was lovely and genuine and had real potential. It got another of my votes for the evening.

The second to last offering of the night was, “Hello, Baby, I Miss You,” by Tatiana Nya Ford.  This was far and away the most amazing script of the night.  The lyricism of her words, delivered by the emotional and fantastic Natalie Dent, was like getting the wind knocked out of you.  It was an ode to a baby that was lost, and it was true, and gritty, and gorgeous all in the same breath. This was worth sitting through eleven more before it.  AMAZING- she should win the prize, and my two critic friends agreed whole-heartedly. We all three voted for this on our ballots.  See, we agree and get along!  It is like we know what we are doing or something!

The last of the night is haply named “The Last Ten” by Mark Scharf.  A couple is in their apartment and finds out that there is only ten minutes left to live before a missile obliterates them.  The immensely talented Holly Gibbs, plays a glib and down to earth wife to her reciprocal, a neurotic and panicky husband, Jon Meeker.  While she suggests champagne and whimsical offerings, he wants it to mean something, and in his search mostly just wastes what moments he has left, which his wife conveniently keeps announcing to him.  It does have a few lovely caring moments, and ends on a sad but sincere note.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  All in all, this is such a delight.  Go and TREAT YO’ SELF! Take some friends, check out the great spots around the region for post drinks and munchies. And don’t forget to stay until the end, the last three are the ones you’ll want to talk about later. (I)

Running Time just over two hours with a fifteen-minute intermission.  Runs through May 6th. Photo credit:  Shealyn Jae Photography.

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