by Mark G. Auerbach
Culture and entertainment no longer hibernate in The Berkshires, where the one-time summer theatre season now operates year-round. For the 8th consecutive season, Barrington Stage has raised the heat with its ingenious 10X10 New Play Festival: Ten 10- minute plays, directed by Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn with a sextet of versatile and talented actors. I’d heard lots of good tihngs about this ambitious project, and I’m so glad I went. Opening weekend was sold out at the intimate St. Germain Stage, and the Festival only runs through March 10. So, order your tickets first, then read the rest of my comments.
The ten plays, which run the gamut from sketch comedy to poignant drama have no common theme, but they’re ten plays with beginnings, middles, and ends, tied together thoughtfully in staging by Barrington Stage Company’s Julianne Boyd, and Berkshire Playwright’s Lab’s Matthew Penn; a deft sound design by Alexander Sovronsky, and terrific set, costumes, and lights by Joseph Martin, Trinity Melissa Koch, and Derek Keifer.
Some serious themes get explored, from racism to pipelines passing through farmlands and forests; to gun violence to dementia. In between are some hilarious portrayals of wedding day frenzy, obnoxious customers at a department store’s “returns”desk on the day after Christmas; and two strangers standing in line who misinterpret what the other says and means.
For me, Donald Loftus’ Eddie and Edna, touching potrayal of a man declining into a world of dementia and confusion, has an evening’s worth of heart and soul in ten minutes. .It hit a bit close to home for me. Suzanne Bradbeer’s Charlottesville explores a Virginian family shaken when a sibling participates in an act of racism caught on social media. Scott Martin’s 172 Push Ups shares the stories of two veterans, several decades apart in age, who find common ground despite different values.
The cast,of six: Michael Fell, Sarah Goeke, Deshawn Mitchell, Peggy Pharr Wilson, Keri Safran, Robert Zukerman, each play a variety of roles, and their comic sense of timing in the farcical wedding day happenings in Brad Sytsma’s Cold Feet is fabulous ensemble acting.
Ten satisfying ten-minute plays with a value-added opening, courtesy of Matt Nelly, six actors playing thirty one characters, two fine directors, and a great design team add up to 100% entertainment…for the price of one ticket!
Barrington Stage Company presents The 10X10 New Play Festival The Playwrights: Suzanne Bradbeer, Michael Brady, Patrick Gabridge, L.H. Grant, Lila Roe Kaplan, Steen Korbar, Daniel Loftus, Scott Mullen, Chris Shaw Swanson, and Brad Sytsma. Directed by Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn. Scenic design by Joseph Martin. Costume design and coordination by Trinity Melissa Koch. Lighting design by Derek Keifer. Sound design by Alexander Sovronsky.. Cast: Michael Fell, Sarah Goeke, Deshawn Mitchell, Peggy Pharr Wilson, Keri Safran, Robert Zukerman. Through March 10. Barrington Stage Company St. Germain Stage. , Pittsfield, MA. 413-236-8888 or www.barringtonstageco..org
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat Radio on 89.5fm/WSKB Radio.