It's a rubric of theater criticism and something of a gentle reminder: Every show has its individual strength; each play has its unique problem. To be sure, there were strengths on display during this year's iteration of 10 by 10, Carrboro ArtsCenter's 10-minute play festival. But the same difficulties kept cropping up far too often to be coincidence during the 10 mini-productions we witnessed on opening night.
Indeed, the term "mini-production" represents the major trouble encountered across the board. When project director Lynden Harris admitted that each play had only four rehearsals, the genesis of too many of the evening's underfunded characters and underdeveloped situations became significantly clearer.
In recent weeks, that amount of preparation has allowed seasoned directors and casts to present useful--but by no means fully developed--staged readings. In these 10 showings we unfortunately have all the evidence needed to conclude that full productions of 10-minute plays need more. A playwriting festival, particularly one in search of renown on national or international levels, owes its playwrights more than truncated, haphazard productions of their work.
As a result, only one work in 10, Doug Reed's Night Before Last, demonstrated uniform excellence in writing, directing and acting. Directed with discretion by TeKay, actors Rus Hames and Joe Brack gave considerable gravitas and poignancy to the final confessions of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti on the night before their execution.
If four other plays didn't entirely overcome their difficulties, at least they dealt adequately enough with them to earn a mixed-to-favorable recommendation: Patrick Gabridge's Measuring Matthew and Ship of Fools, Diane Lefer's Interrogating the Power of Art, and Mark Harvey Levine's The Rental.
The script of Gabridge's Matthew gave a disquieting window on the world of a mathematical genius with obsessive-compulsive disorder, after he's been dumped by a girlfriend. Still, we had the sense that the script was more developed than the characters we witnessed on opening night--again, under these circumstances, not the actors' fault. On the opposite side, local heroes Jill Greeson, Katja Hill and Nicole Farmer redeemed the scripted shortcomings found in Gabridge's Ship and Levine's lightweight Rental. In Ship, Hill and Farmer traded juicy riffs as two women running out of time on a lifeboat in the ocean, while Greeson and Brack both did comic justice to Rental's rent-a-boyfriend scenario.
The rest of the works bore unfortunate testimony to the compromises playwrights sometimes make on plot points, character development, exposition or denouement in the quest to clock out in less than 600 seconds--or the compromises their producers made once the scripts were in their hands.
AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL:
Grupo Krapp, Reynolds Theater, July 14, $23-$19, 684-4444; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Page Auditorium, July 15-17, $36-$21, Children's Concert, 1 p.m. July 17, $10, 684-4444; ADF Musicians Concert, Page Auditorium, July 18, 7:30 p.m., $20, 684-4444; International Choreographers Commissioning Program, Reynolds Theater, July 19-21, $23-$19, 684-4444.
The Phantom Tollbooth, Raleigh Little Theatre, Thursday-Sunday through July 25, $12-$8, 821-3111; The Frog Prince, Rags To Riches Theater, Carrboro ArtsCenter, Friday-Saturday July 16-17; $5-$4 (age 3-up), 929-ARTS; The Hobbit, Temple Theatre, Friday-Sunday, July 16-18, $8-$5, 774-4155; Aladdin, N.C. Kids Theatre, Friday-Sunday through July 23, $14-$10, 560-3030.
Kerpow!, Open Door Theatre, various outdoor locations (see www.theopendoor.net for details), Friday-Sunday through August 7, $5 suggested donation, 672-2426.