The Record (Troy, NY)

10×10 at Barrington Stage is winter warming

- By Bob Goepfert

PITTSFIELD, MASS. » I cannot think of a more pleasant way to spend a winter day than attending Barrington Stage Company’s 10×10 New Play Festival.

If offered in the summer it would still be an enjoyable experience worth attending. At this time of year it’s a tonic from the dreariness that hits you a month before spring arrives.

10×10 is ten plays that are 10 minutes long. With an intermissi­on, it runs about two hours. Most plays are light-hearted, focusing on a single theme and performed by a cast ranging from two to six actors. They each perform several plays over the course of the production. They are as good as is the material.

Almost all touch on serious themes, but none are heavy-handed or self-important. It’s the ideal blending of humor providing insight on subjects we often find in life.

As an example, the opening piece, “Right Field of Dreams” by Stephen Kaplan, is about a 10-year old boy on a baseball field. For those old enough to remember sandlot baseball games, right field is where you tried to hide your most inept player. Tim realizes why he’s there and fears he will make an error and lose the game, embarrassi­ng himself and his coach, who is also his father. It’s charming, funny and wise.

On the subject of ineptitude, another play “Real Magic’ by Brent Askari deals with a self-taught, amateur magician whose failure while performing a pigeon trick terrifies his young audience. In “The Haunting Package” by Deidre Girard a couple who get their thrills by ghost hunting deliberate­ly spend a night in a haunted hotel room. It’s not what they expected.

Of local interest is “Anything You Want”. It tracks

a student trying to get the camera-shy painter-illustrato­r Norman Rockwell to pose for a photo in his Stockbridg­e, Massachuse­tts studio.

Perhaps the most complex play is the finale “All Aboard” by Michael Burgan. It’s a piece about time, space, and simultaneo­usly existing universes. Mostly it shows how confusingl­y comic it can be when forced to confront alternativ­e theories about reality.

The most serious piece is “If I Go First” by Jim Moss.

It deals with an older couple as a wife has to convince her husband of many decades that he has to accept her entering a hospice for the dying. In 10-minutes you experience humor based on fear of loss. Most of all, you share the love of the couple.

The acting is wonderful. The always delightful Peggy Pharr Wilson, who has appeared in every 10×10 produced at BSC, scores with her every interpreti­ve role. Matt Neely, who is in his 10th 10×10, is a funny actor who can also get his characters to tug on your heart. And thanks to Matt for the original opening mini-musical.

Of the four new performers, Skyler Gallun is a gifted comic actor. His bio shows him as experience­d in a large number of Shakespear­e’s plays. Here’s hoping we see more of him this summer.

Robert Zukerman is the ideal grouchy, older man. Whether its as a distanced father or a fragile husband in denial, the actor gets chuckles while never demeaning his character. He’s also great as Norman Rockwell.

Sky Marie is a versatile actor who brings charm to a character whether she’s a determined student, a long lost girlfriend or a strongwill­ed wife. She also knows how to hold for a joke line.

Camille Upshaw is equally as good, as she plays mostly self-assured women. She’s always able to add a vulnerable desire to be loved in her performanc­e, but she makes it clear it has to be on her terms.

Direction is by 10×10 regular Matthew Penn and BSC’s new artistic director, Alan Paul, each guiding five plays. Their work is seamless, clever and brilliantl­y finds comedy in even the most poignant moment. Simple set changes are brilliantl­y unobtrusiv­e and keeps the production flowing.

Because of their skill and insight you will laugh inside the theater and think about what you experience­d on the ride home.

10×10 continues at the St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachuse­tts through Sunday, March 12. For tickets and informatio­n go to barrington­ or call (413) 236-8888.

 ?? CROMARTIE/BARRINGTON STAGE COMPANY PHOTO ?? 10x10conti­nues at the St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachuse­tts through Sunday, March 12.
CROMARTIE/BARRINGTON STAGE COMPANY PHOTO 10x10conti­nues at the St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachuse­tts through Sunday, March 12.

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