The eighth edition of this annual independent festival of 10-minute plays was stronger than last year's.
That's not surprising, given that the national call for submissions generated more than 550 scripts, a threefold increase. Still, the overall quality of the eight plays chosen - all fast-paced comedies -- was impressive.
Partly credit seasoned directors Todd Betker, Joanna Lowe, Don DiGiulio and John E. Lane, Jr., who directed two works each. Meanwhile, the performances, shared by a cast of 20 (with several actors in multiple roles), were mostly strong, even in some of the lesser plays.
For instance, even if the resolution of James C. Ferguson's skit-like "The Chair" landed with a thud, Parag S. Gohel and Valentina Benrexi really worked the material. Likewise Everett Lowe and Allison Fatla in Marek Muller's "Bear-ly Legal," a too-cute piece about a couple fighting over the guy's failed scheme to use grizzly bears as security guards. However, its cast of four couldn't salvage Jeffrey Wolf's "The Department of Last Words," which fell short of its aspirations to literary comedy.
Notably better was Andrew Clarke's absurdist "The Interview," with Robert Isenberg and Joe Stile in a bit of corporate satire driven by inspired wordplay. Then there was Joseph Lyons' " Bury My Heart on Diabolical Kung-Fu Island": DiGiulio's smartly campy direction shaped this chop-socky spoof, with Brad Stephenson and Ricardo Vila-Roger as squabbling brothers staging a martial-arts death match.
Better still was "The Telephone." Roger Mortimer-Smith's stage-world premise (actors battle stagehand) risked coming off like an academic exercise. But his script went beyond fourth-wall jokes to give director Betker and actors Fred Betzner and Diana Ifft room to work funny faces, gestures and voices like expert vaudevillians.
Even more impressive was "Bath Time is Fun Time." Arthur M. Jolly's piece began as a seemingly one-dimensional skit about a Rubber Ducky, Sponge, Submarine and Washcloth traumatized by a small child … but quickly transformed into existential comedy and comic religious allegory. Kudos to DiGiulio and actors Gohel, Isenberg (a CP contributor), Dave Ranallo and Adam Kukic.
Still, top honors are due to Gayle Pazerski's "There She Goes." I'm still trying to wrap my head around the theatrical dynamics that drive this darkly satirical but still uproarious one-act. It's built around a make-up-table tête-à-tête between two five-year-old female beauty-pageant contestants ... as played by unshaven adult men in kiddie drag, wielding New Yawk accents. As directed by Lane, actors Joe Lyons and John Feightner tear it up. But alongside the comedy, Pazerski brutally, yet somehow movingly, skewers the pageant world — or as contestants Madison and Mikayla call it, "the circuit."
Pazerski, who I believe is the only local playwright represented in this year's fest, is better known as an actress (most recently in Quantum's The End of the Affair). But if this is what she can do crafting scripts, let's hope there's more where it came from.
Future Ten 8 (www.futuretenant.org) continues at 8 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11, and 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12. Tickets are just $10 ($12 at the door). There's even free Woodchuck Hard Cider.