Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

10 X 10 New Play Festival
Barrington Stage Company
Review by Fred Sokol

Robert Zukerman and Doug Harris in An Awkward
Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah

Photo by David Dashiell
Barrington Stage Company's 10 X 10 New Play Festival is a late winter treat which is just a metaphorical, fun kick in the pants. Directors Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn spin six versatile performers through close to a couple of hours worth of ten plays each of which lasts, give or take, ten minutes. Many of the scenes fly high on a scale of one through ten and there isn't a loser in the bunch.

The proceedings flip into high gear immediately as the entire ensemble combine on a friendly song and dance number (by Matt Neely) which serves both to showcase abilities and warm up the audience. It's simply terrific.

Laurie Allen's Stealing a Kiss follows and it is a clear winner, perhaps the best bit of the show. Peggy Pharr Wilson plays Sue, who sits on a bench, her umbrella open in anticipation of raindrops. Harvey (Robert Zukerman) stands nearby at a bus stop. Both older people have lost a spouse and Harvey, a talker, badgers introverted Sue with questions. Call this a chapter in the lives of those alone and wanting.

Glenn Alterman's Love Me, Love My Work is next up, featuring Wilson and Neely in a brief work about a writer, a critic, two characters, and more. That yields to Honestly, through which writer Steven Korbar brings to life Bobby (Doug Harris) and Kaylene (Kelsey Rainwater), a couple breaking up. Or, not so fast, since an acknowledgment of the situation might help provide a remedy for lack of truth.

Gown, a three-character vignette, finds Annie (Aziza Gharib) looking at wedding dresses with her mother Lynn (Wilson). Courtney (Rainwater) is the saleswoman whose role becomes more pivotal as Robert Weibezahl's script unfolds. There's a melancholic twist to this selection and, as was the case with Stealing a Kiss, we find someone genuinely needy.

John Bavoso's An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah closes out the first half of the program and it's a gently outrageous play benefitting from Nicole Slaven's imaginative costuming of Abraham (Zukerman) and Isaac (Harris). These guys have a nifty conversation as, respectively, father and son, about God, sacrifice, themselves, and so on. For those ancient enough to remember, it delectably brings to mind a visual of "The 2000 Year Old Man," the hilarious sketch Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner brought to TV's "The Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1967.

After a short break, Wilson, as Estelle, and Zukerman, playing Harold, return with Cynthia Faith Arsenault's clever, contemporary Escape from Faux Pas. What, indeed, would happen if you mistakenly opened someone else's large Amazon box? Upon further inspection, it's evident that the items within the carton are, to wax euphemistically, somewhat edgy. The finders, new to an over 55 years of age community, comically discuss their plight.

Ellen Abrams's Liars Anonymous reveals that Max (Neely) and Charlotte (Gharib) cannot avoid fibbing. The playwriting here is swift and cute.

Mark Harvey Levine's Misfortune is all about fortune cookies provided by Cindy (Rainwater) to Barry (Harris) and Stephanie (Gharib). This is ingenious material which, finally, reaches for a zenith of precise absurdity. Great stuff!

Climax, by Chelsea Marcantel, boasts a most appropriate title. It features three characters (embodied by Rainwater, Neely and Harris) who muse about relationships. Rainwater's Sam has a telling passage early on that concludes with "I'm in a boring marriage with a good man. And I ... I never considered that possibility when I was single. I don't know what to do about it."

Ultimately, all of the actors gather together on stage for the finale, The Voice of the People, by Cary Pepper. The comedy focuses on an election and whether John Smith or Shawn Tigon will assume office as mayor of fictional HomeHaven. How timely it is to tie up the proceedings on Election Day.

The enactment of skillfully drawn, catchy short plays makes for a very, very jaunty evening. Boyd and Penn assist the actors, who appear to be having a fine time of it, as they smoothly shift mood, without hesitation, according to content of each successive play.

The 10 X 10 New Play Festival runs through March 13, 2022, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets, call 413-236-8888 or visit