10×10 New Play Festival

The ninth annual ten ten minute play festival at Barrington Stage is part of  Pittsfield’s Upstreet Winter Arts Festival which brightens the last days of February with a variety of cultural activities.  Directed by Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn. The New Play Festival runs from February 13 to March 8 at the St. Germain Stage. Six actors, three men and three women move swiftly through a range of characters.  Over the years it has been a pleasure to watch the magic of theatre as the actors change their personalities as well as their clothes in play after play.

The emphasis in the plays this year is comedy about our contemporary world. The opening  play Five Seconds claims that the attention span of ten minutes may be too much for modern audiences. Issues such as school lock down drills, over-reliance on digital devices, robots providing child care, control of one’s body, are some examples of the themes that are explored. When the final play Oy Vey Maria has the entire cast gathered around the manager, it is a pleasure to go back in time. It is also one of the funniest plays and a fine conclusion. In the past, the mix of plays seemed more varied in tone. Only Are You One of Those Robots? is strangely the play that engages the audience’s emotions on a different level of caring for the pain the characters are experiencing.

Generally throughout the plays, the acting surpasses the writing. The women seem particularly strong, but that may be that they have more to do than the men. Peggy Phar Wilson, as always, is superb in each part she plays. Newcomer Maya Loren Jackson manages her various characters so that each is unique. Whether her part is a run on or a major lead Keri Saran is on target. Her range of robots in Minor Deviations is quite impressive. Kenneth Tigar has his best part in his duet with Peggy Phar Wilson in Stay Please. Doug Harris stands out in My Body where his character is different from the others he has played.  Peter Macklin doesn’t have that much to do in the plays in which he appears, but he is convincing in each.

Given the smooth transitions from play to play the sets are minimal, but they establish the settings effectively. Brian Prather and Joseph Martin know how to use every element to unobtrusively create the right mood for each episode. Boyd and Penn’s skilled direction is evident in the convincing actions and reactions with which the actors embody their characters. Audience members will each have their different favorites among the plays, but all will be entertained throughout.

For tickets contact Barrington Stage or call 413-236-8888

To read other reviews, click on Berkshire Theatre Critics Association

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