Before the plays even started this past Saturday, two things jumped out about "The F-10 Play Summit," the sixth annual iteration of this locally produced festival of 10-minute plays. Both had to do with the audience at Downtown's Future Tenant Gallery.
One, it was a sell-out crowd, with more than 100 folks filling the storefront's seats, despite performances of the same program both nights preceding. Two, the crowd was on the whole much younger than Pittsburgh theater audiences in general, with lots of folks in their 20s.
Many, doubtless, were there to see plays by their friends, or to watch their friends among the (similarly youthful) actors. But if the idea to stage mini-plays was meant partly to draw audiences who wouldn't normally see theater, this outfit's done its job. And it probably doesn't hurt that: (1) your ticket gets you free beer and (2) the whole show is under an hour.
As is usually the case with festivals of one-acts, the plays themselves were a mixed bag. Some were disappointing (especially after FT6 producer Stacy Vespaziani informed us that the festival received 120 submissions, of which this weekend's shows were five of the ten chosen).
Philip Real's "The Unknown Artist," despite energetic performances by Claire Fraley and Valentina Benrexi, was a labored comedy about a frustrated artist kidnapping a critic. John C. Davenport's "Public Transportation" aimed for wacky farce, but its female instigator came off merely as deranged. And Carol Mullen's "Turning Trixie" (despite another game turn by Fraley) proved that it's really difficult to create comedy out of prostitution.
On the upside was Steven Korbar's "Let Go," featuring Christopher Spare and Rich Venezia as two former associates at a bar, one of whom is nursing a grudge over an unspecified wrong. The lack of detail adds to the intrigue: Were they lovers? Was it a bad business deal? Director Kyle Bostian and the actors wrung the maximum drama out of this well-shaped work.
Most memorable, however, was Blaise Miller's "30 Year Old Dora," a deliciously ill little number imaginging a certain cartoon explorer's dissolute adult years. Caitlin Northup's Dora is still wide-eyed, chirpy and full of her accustomed catch phrases — but the adventure's given way to self-medication. The play's set on a blind date, with director Fred Betzner as the waiter and Brad Stephenson as the straight man for Northup ... and Josh Aronoff as Boots, the very bitter monkey.
The festival continues with five fresh one-acts at 8 p.m. nightly Thu., Nov. 12-Sun., Nov. 14, with a 3 p.m. Saturday matinee (www.futuretenant.org).