10 by 10 in the Triangle
The ArtsCenter of Carrboro
Through July 20
The ArtsCenter's seventh annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle festival is "the year of high-risk behavior," according to the program notes. A more accurate description of the theme linking the 10 10-minute plays is "two people have a conversation where they learn something new about each other." Though the locations range from a rooftop to a spaceship bound for Mars, many of the stories rely on the old dramatic staple of two people stuck in a space together and forced to hash things out (the Mars one even opens with a sci-fi remix of the theme to The Odd Couple).
The first half of 10 by 10 is the more predictable, starting with the Neil Simon-esque Up on the Roof, about a couple hashing out their differences on ... well, see the title. Other plays in this half deal with similar issues, such as an employee and human resources manager discovering common ground (Exit Interview) or a prospective stepmother and stepdaughter scoping each other out at a ball game (Hard Ball).
The second half veers into more unpredictable territory, starting with David Guaspari's Speed Mating, an endearingly goofy bit about insect mating rituals. Several performers stand out in multiple plays, notably veteran writer and performer John Boni, who does some soulful, restrained work in Canyon's Edge, Off to Summer and Messages Deleted, the last of which is the only play not to contain comic elements. Barbette Hunter and Rob Jenkins also do consistently energetic and thoughtful work, often rising above the scripts' more predictable twists, and John Allore also stands out as a stroke-afflicted writer in Struck by J and a man narrating his dysfunctional past in Dead Cat.
The more offbeat plays are the most enjoyable, but the energy level stays high throughout the entire show. Besides, knowing that each play only lasts 10 minutes means that if you don't enjoy one, you can take comfort in the fact that it'll soon be over.