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BWW Reviews: 10 X 10: A Box of Treats at FPCT

10 X 10: Ten 10-Minute Plays presents this reviewer with an unprecedented challenge: reviewing ten separate works at the same time. A year ago, Baltimore's Fells Point Corner Theatre established a competition for plays that could be presented in ten minutes (and met other requirements for cheap and expeditious production). Out of the 101 entries received, ten were selected, and are now presented in two five-play "acts," using a repertory-style cast of ten actors. The effect is a bit like opening a sampler of candies; while enjoying one treat, you're looking forward to the next, and the next, and the next ...

Anyway, there is no way to do full credit to each or indeed any of them, but I think it's appropriate at least to mention each. So here goes:

* Rachel Carson Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Pat Montley: the groundbreaking ecologist, grappling with cancer (Hillary Mazer) is tempted by the Devil (Daniel Collins) and pestered by a little grandson (Felix Smolen). (Full disclosure: Collins is my fellow-reviewer on the Baltimore page of BroadwayWorld.) Directed by Miriam Bazensky.

* The Spanish Whip, by George Freek. A mini-La Ronde, in which Mark, Laurie, and Dexter (David and Kate Shoemaker, and Raymond Kelly respectively) plus one offstage spouse, prove to have turned marital discord and infidelity into something of a daisy chain. Directed by Howard Berkowitz.

* The Coaching Session, by Kevin Kostic. In the dog-eat-dog world of high-pressure retail sales, a Neil LaBute-ish sketch of the firing of Edward (Josh Shoemaker) by Jennifer (Anne Shoemaker) ends with an O. Henry-esque twist. Directed by Richard Barber.

* Like Stars In the Night, by Brent Englar. Driver (David Shoemaker) takes Passenger (Jesus Jackson) on a much more sinister outing than Passenger had bargained for. Directed by Josh Shoemaker. (More full disclosure: Englar is also my fellow-reviewer on the Baltimore page. As there are only three of us on this page save for occasional appearances by a Washington colleague, perhaps the perceptive reader can intuit why I was tapped to do this review.)

* David Austin, by Pat McGeever. More sinister goings-on. Flip, a hit man (David Shoemaker), pays a potentially lethal call on Simone (Anne Shoemaker), but the issue of who is dealing the lethality is to be determined as the call proceeds. Directed by Lance Lewman.

* Thin Air, by Tom Coash. Bird, an aerialist, delivers a soliloquy that soars for the heights and, in trapeze talk, goes down (not falls), as we learn exactly what moment in her life we are witnessing. Directed by Richard Barber.

* Turnover, by Chris Graybill. Job burnout in the penal system of the near future, as employee Stephen (Jesus Jackson) has some surprises for inmate Ms. Jackson (Jillian Colucci). Directed by Da'Minique Williams.

* Saving Mrs. Goldfarb, by Jody Nusholtz. Ronald (Daniel Collins), a somewhat dysfunctional gay man living in what seems to be an exclusively Jewish corner of Manhattan, is visited by ghosts of his Zadie (Raymond Kelly) and his Bubby (Jillian Colucci), a lover, actual or potential (David Shoemaker), and one actual neighbor, the eponymous Mrs. Goldfarb (Hillary Mazer), who has some surprises for him. Directed by Da'Minique Williams.

* Sleeping Beauty, by Rosemary Frisino Toohey. When the real estate-driven concerns of condo owners Marni (Anne Shoemaker) and Peter (David Shoemaker) collide with the demands of decency in a nation that depends upon the labor of illegal immigrants, which will prevail? Need you ask? Directed by Miriam Bazensky.

* The Hero, by Christine Macready. A lovely fantasy of turnabout as fair play in the always unequal world of divorce, with Don (David Shoemaker) as the resourceful wizard who assists Ellen (Hillary Mazer) in inflicting poetic justice upon Ellen's slimy ex, Marvin (Raymond Kelly), and trophy girlfriend Betsey (Kate Shoemaker). Directed by Lance Lewman.

Having read these descriptions, the reader is perhaps better-equipped to understand the attractions of a project like this. The extreme compression does not give much scope for subtlety or profundity (though Thin Air comes pretty close), but it does allow for quick, O. Henry-ish twists of plot, sudden reversals, and lots of sketch comedy. Because the cast plays repertory, everyone gets to stretch a bit, and try out two or three or even four radically different kinds of roles in a single night. In two successive plays, for instance, Jillian Colucci moves from portraying a tough, one-eyed killer dressed all in black to inhabiting the spirit of an over-the-top Jewish grandma. David Shoemaker gets to be crass, menacing, yuppy-ish and superficial, and then decent and funny, all in the space of a couple of hours. Dan Collins (pictured above with Raymond Kelly), is Mephistophelian and grave in one sketch, verklempt in another. And so forth.

Another benefit is like the old line about romances gone bad and streetcars: if it isn't working with this one, there's be another one along in ten minutes. Given all these benefits, then, it's hard to have a boring time with this box of treats. Props also to Coordinator Mark Steckbeck for conducting this symphony of chamber pieces.

10 X 10: Ten 10-Minute Plays, by various playwrights, through May 1, presented by Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 South Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21042. Tickets $10. 


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