Jimmy Buffett has a great line in his song “Barometer” that says “Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.” In many ways, this was my sense of the compilation of short plays in the 10 x 10 x 10 show at Fells Point Corner Theatre in Baltimore. Each of the 10 plays (featuring the works of local playwrights) ran for approximately 10 minutes each, were comprised of an ensemble of a grand total of 10 actors and had strong central themes that were quite different from each other in context. Honestly, I thought there were some overlapping, disconcerting (and vulgar) messages which may have been intended to be brazen theatre, but fell flat on substance. Of the 10 short plays, I was moved by merely three of them and compelled by only two.
The third number, “Reason for Separation” by Isaiah Harvey, was a simple, nasty exchange between a sour couple on their approach to the final threshold of divorce. Shamire Casselle played the wounded, soon-to-be ex-wife “Shay,” who is an angry, obnoxious character berating her estranged partner “Marc,” played by Jared Michael Swain. This is a fairly lopsided piñata event without the blindfolds –as divorces can often be. However, it resolves as many divorces do, with reflection of what was and what could have been. This is one of those fish dishes your relatives cook that you have to be careful eating, anticipating a sharp bone in each bite.
The actors in this ensemble are talented and I give a lot of credit to those truly able to ‘get into their characters.’
The fifth number of the evening was a strange, but humorous number titled “UH: A Brief Musical” by Utkarsh Rajawat. Its premise is as bizarre as it is quirky. A woman (Karen Shantz) has to make her case to an angel (Christian O’Neill) and a demon (Tom Piccin) before being allowed into Heaven using only songs. All the woman can muster at first is “uh..” and thus the angel and demon simply refer to her as “Uh” throughout the play. Its hilarity is in its absurdity and the silly songs this woman sings about her life, trying to justify entrance into the glories of Heaven are simply summations of mundane fodder. However, I found it all quite amusing and enjoyed this one.
The eighth number of the evening was a play titled “Beer Bottle Bug” by David J. Hills and is another strange piece that takes a page right from Franz Kafka’s super astounding spontaneous human morphing bizarro world. Carrie (Karen Shantz) is a recovering addict that comes home and tells her partner, Ty (Christian O’Neill) that she turned her parole officer into a bug and put him into an empty beer bottle. She proceeds to take the bug out of the bottle when they decide it is best to simply kill it and hide her great powers of turning people into bugs. This got a lot of chuckles out of me because Shantz makes a lot of funny faces in her hysteria, which exacerbates its insanity.
The ninth number of the evening titled “The Home for Retired Canadian Girlfriends” by John Bavaso was, by far, the most clever work on the playbill. A young woman, Tiffany (Grace O’Keefe) arrives befuddled to a strange place that turns out to be a retirement resort. She is met by a man named Rupert (Tom Piccin), who is there to welcome her to this new life of retirement. This frustrates her because she is barely in her twenties and cannot understand how she got there. This play is a true gem.
Before mentioning my “best pick,” I will say all of the plays moved just fast enough to “get there” and made their points in the allotted time for me to “see” a sliver of their worlds, albeit some of them could have used a little more charm and less animus.
On that note, the final number of the evening was perhaps the most compelling play of the group. “Knock Knock” by Rich Pauli begins with a man, Dave (Christian O’Neill), waking up in a bunker under his own home that was built (unbeknownst to him) by his Amazon Echo companion, Francesca (the voice of Jenn Alexander). Francesca tells Dave the world has been obliterated and she had the bunker built to save him from certain doom. I loved the premise of this play and rated it #1 of the evening for having so many good elements and dialogue in the story to keep it fluid and engaging from start to finish.
The actors in this ensemble are talented and I give a lot of credit to those truly able to “get into their characters.” Most impressive for me were Grace O’Keefe, Christian O’Neill, Karen Shantz, Tom Piccin and Jenn Alexander. Piccin and Alexander showed a lot of versatility and it was quite evident to me. As for the set, it was very plain black with some subtle furniture changes between them, which didn’t create any distraction, honestly, but added nothing aesthetically either. Stage manager Alexander Scally and set designer David Shoemaker kept things uncomplicated so everyone could focus on the stories and not on transitions or backdrops. The water wave silhouette lighting in “There Is No More of Me After This” was the kind of finesse I was expecting in some of the other numbers.
There were a few directors for this production: Christen Cromwell, Steve Goldklang, Donna Ibale, Betse Lyons and Matthew Shea, each with their own sense of piquancy, undoubtedly. Producers Barbara Madison Hauck, Justin Islett and all others in the creative production crew present some golden nuggets in this 10 x 10 x 10 –which is now in its seventh annual production run.
Running Time: 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.
10 x 10 x 10 is now playing at Fells Point Corner Theatre until June 16th. Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets.