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A strong set of comic shorts at The ArtCenter's 10 by 10

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In its ninth year, the 10 by 10 in the Triangle festival at The ArtsCenter of Carrboro piles on the comedy in its dectet of 10-minute plays. In the program, one of the cast members describes it as the "tapas of theater," which proves apt: There's something for everyone's taste, and if you don't like one sample, then at least it's only a bite-sized portion.

First, the best of the best: "Fighting Mr. Right" by Barbara Lindsay scores with the chemistry between Estes Tarver and Jenny Wales as a new couple whose post-date glow devolves into a neurotic argument. "30 Love," a David Mamet-influenced number by Terry McFadden, also hits the mark with the anti-chemistry between John Allore and Lori Mahl as a couple bitterly negotiating their divorce settlement.

"Somewhere Out There" by Carrboro's David Rabinowitz is an odd but lyrical number about communicating with sound creatures in space; it has the gentle-but-absurd qualities of something by Jules Feiffer or Shel Silverstein. Christopher Lockheardt's "Stuck," about two people trapped in a malfunctioning revolving door, features some truly impressive contortions by Julie Oliver and John Allore.

Oliver also shines with Jenny Wales in James C. Ferguson's "Don't Eat the Yellow Picasso," a tale of paint colors battling it out on the pallatte, and the finale, J. Stephen Brantley's "Good God Enters Flossing," mines some strong laughs out of a trio of Brooklyn gays discovering the Ark of the Covenant in their living room.

Other numbers get laughs, even if they don't quite succeed; "The Size of Furniture" is an amusing if slight sketch about a bitter upper-class couple arguing over designer boxes. "The Banana Trial," told from the point of view of a couple of chimps in an experiment, has some physical comedy but lame jokes, while "The Miles High Club," about a perverse screening process for astronauts, feels like a leftover from a 1970s TV sketch show. The opener, "Closet Case," about a man finding a woman living in his closet, mostly feels pointless.

Of course, you might feel differently, but that's the beauty of 10 plays by 10 authors (and, of course, the 10-minute length means you only rarely have to look at your watch). In terms of the general curatorial approach, the revue might have been more interesting if its producers had mixed comedy and drama shorts as in previous years, but there's enough good material here to justify going comedy-only. It's a strong lineup with some fun performances, and a promising prelude to 10 by 10 turning 10 next year.

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