Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

10X10 New Play Festival
Barrington Stage
Review by Fred Sokol

Robert Zukerman, Gisela Chípe,
Peggy Pharr Wilson in The Consultant

Photo by David Dashiell
Barrington Stage's 10X10 New Play Festival is an absolute creative blast that showcases, through spirited performance, writing excellence. Alan Paul and Matthew Penn share directorship of these small gems which bequeath blends of comedy and compassion. Theatregoers, on opening Sunday, filled every seat within the cozy confines of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The proceedings begin when the six actors sing and dance their way through a lively, welcome introduction of lyrics set to a tune from Grease. Brent Askari's The Consultant follows and those who have been to the 10X in previous years will happily recognize actors Peggy Pharr Wilson, who plays Sylvia, and Robert Zukerman, as Bill. They are joined by Barrington Stage newcomer Gisela Chípe, cast as Celeste. Sylvia and Bill, together for many, many decades, visit the much younger Celeste who is a couples or sex therapist. Use your imagination or, better, see for yourself. Enough said.

Next, Aaron (Ross Griffin) is watching football on TV when Erin (Naire Poole) climbs through a window into his apartment. Aaron used to be her boyfriend but she is now eluding her current wedding. Of course, she's supposed to be in love with her new man but ... Playwright Jordan Ealey provides this one-act piece. Next, Robert Zukerman is back in Mark Evan Chimsky's Meeting Fingerman. It's a complex play which finds youthful author Nate (Griffin) in the presence of his hero, Saul Fingerman (Zukerman), a legendary Yiddish writer. Fingerman talks of Jewish shtetls in the "old country." This short is both catchy and contemplative.

All cast members join on stage, but they're lost, when birding, as part of John Mabey's The Mount Greylock Fish Hawk Squawk. Have you ever found yourself confused and confounded while hiking in a state park? Jennifer Maisel's The Welcome closes out the first half of the show as Jana (Poole) enters Greta's home. Greta (Wilson) has asked Jana in.

After intermission, the action swings into another nifty, high gear with James McLindon's Snow Falling Faintly. This play combines wit, drama and scrutiny into one significant package. Mom (Wilson) and Son (Griffin) arduously shovel 26 inches of snow. She's tough and unwilling to consider getting a snowblower to assist with the terrible winter storms. He goes along but would rather not. They miss a pivotal someone who is no longer on the scene. This could be a time to consider snow as it falls, flies, and perhaps, is tossed out of the way, as life's metaphors.

Jessica Provenz's The Open Door is anything but that. Debbie (Chípe) and Dan (Nealy) are on either side of a closed door. Scenic designer Marcus Kearns goes with the obvious and it works. Each is on a cell phone and they're about to, maybe, experience a blind date. Playwright Christopher Oscar Peña's can I tell you a story? is a monologue which Ross Griffin precisely delivers. Cory (Griffin) reflects upon death.

Diana Metzger's High Time is just that. Four of the actors take the stage and the setting is a marijuana shop. Dolly and Sam Answorth (Wilson and Zukerman, respectively) are not so young. Jen (Poole) and Dennis (Nealy) are of another generation. A Doubt My Play bookends the evening with Glenn Alterman's appropriate piece. Actor Nealy is the Playwright who awaits criticism from his peers as the Moderator (Zukerman) takes notes. How insightful this is and what a perfect fit to close such a thoroughly engaging couple of hours of performance.

BSC's mixture is seasoned, like excellent soup or stew, with a variety of literal and symbolic tastes and textures. There's something for all of us while any two people probably would vote differently if polled about favorites. No matter because, rest assured, there's more than one delectable vignette for each and every theatregoer. The scripting is terrific while directors Paul and Penn coax a skilled, malleable group of actors.

The 10X10 New Play Festival runs through March 10, 2024, at Barrington Stage Company, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-236-8888 or visit