The 12th Annual 10X10 New Play Festival

Barrington Stage Company Extended Through March 12

By: - Feb 20, 2023

At a Sunday matinee, we were able to shake off cabin fever with an infusion of winter theatre in the Berkshires. While it’s still a stretch until Spring we were able to get the creative juices flowing if just for a day.

It was time yet again for the much anticipated 12th Annual 10X10 New Play Festival which is part of the 2023 10X10 Upstreet Arts Festival that runs through March 5.

 For the 2023 version, under new artistic director, Alan Paul, 10X10 New Play Festival cast features 10X10 veterans Matt Neely, BSC Associate Artist Peggy Pharr Wilson and Robert Zukerman.  Making their BSC 10X10 debuts are Skyler Gallun, Sky Marie and Camille Upshaw.

 Directors for the 10X10 New Play Festival are BSC Artistic Director Alan Paul and returning for his seventh year, Matthew Penn.

If, like me, you have a touch of ADD, then my friend, this Bud’s for you.

The ten plays get just ten minutes each to make their bones then presto, with the shuffling of props and costumes, it’s on to the next one.

The evening started with a sprightly musical mélange which included all of the players with a vaudevillian pitter-patter of song and dance. That brightened us up with anxious anticipation.

It was also the occasion to trot out new artistic director, Alan Paul, with his first shift at the tiller. He took the occasion to introduce himself and pitch the upcoming season and its highlights. Paul will be directing Cabaret.

Then it was on with the show.

The format for the mini plays is challenging all around. That’s a tiny window into which to insert greatly compressed content. Generally it leads to a one-off punch line. It’s intriguing how the program shuffles the deck of three male and three female performers of varying ages from teens to seniors.

There is stunning prestidigitation as an actor creates a character vignette and then badda badda bing is soon back again as another.

Yet again we were astonished at how deftly this is accomplished by the remarkably versatile veterans Peggy Pharr Wilson and Robert Zukerman. They set the pace and provided the glue to bind together such a motley polyglot range of vignettes from drama to comedy and farce.

Not surprisingly it was an uneven experience. Some works we clung to and savored not wanting to let them go while others one patiently sits through waiting for the next one.

Overall, the selection of the first half of the program was satisfactory but we craved some oomph. With the exception of the first one, Real Magic, which never took hold with me, overall the second half of the program seemed better paced and built to a roaring finish.

Each iteration of 10x10 leaves us with something that really nails it and lingers.

Like other seniors in the audience we were stunned and riveted by If I Go First by Michael Brady. Wilson and Pharr poignantly share the end of life decisions that all couples face. She has opted to end chemo and enter hospice. Their heart wrenching performances sunk deeply into me.

The Haunting Package by Deidre Girard was great fun. Tom (Skyler) and Bethany (Sky) are enjoying a spooky honeymoon. He has signed on for the full package that entails the very room where a husband offed his wife. There are spooky special effects which he has augmented with chocolates and champagne. But things do not go according to plan.

They say that all politics are local. That was the strategy of Anything You Want by Arlene Jaffe. The trope is that BU student (Sky) must photograph a celebrity and document how and why for a journalism degree. He (Robert) proves to be the long deceased Norman Rockwell. There is anachronistic name dropping as he offers to connect her with some local pals including James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie. It seemed too inbred and pitched to a Berkshire’s audience.

Our theatrical experience concluded with the clever and engaging All Aboard by Michael Burgan. This time Wilson was back as the conductor of a train bound for New Haven or is it New Heaven? Neal (Matt) is traveling home for a memorial service. But dad, who is or isn’t dead, shows up as a fellow passenger.

In miniature we have a comedic version of Heisenberg explaining the Uncertainty Principle to Niels Bohr in the play Copenhagen. It helps to know a bit of quantum physics and time/ space continuum to catch the drift of the clever plot.

At the end of which the entire cast came bounding back for a raucous and much deserved curtain call.

The Plays

Real Magic by Brent Askari    

Directed by Matt Penn

Magician Carl has a bad gig at a children’s party as well as an encounter from his past. 


If I Go First by Michael Brady

Directed by Matt Penn

Harry and Lizzy have lived a good life together. Lizzy is now sick and in pain, and wants to exit on her own terms. It’s time to have “the Talk”.


All Aboard! by Michael Burgan

Directed by Alan Paul    

While taking a train home to attend a memorial service for his father, Neal’s trip turns into a physics lesson, with some unexpected people along for the ride.

Piece of Cake by Allie Costa   

Directed by Alan Paul

Baking is the family business, but it's not that easy — especially when you've got big shoes to fill.

 The Haunting Package by Deirdre Girard

Directed by Matt Penn   

Bethany is delighted with her surprise anniversary weekend — until the hotel room seems to have a mind of its own…

Anything You Want by Arlene Jaffe

Directed by Matt Penn

A college kid needs to take a celebrity photo to graduate. Problem is, she’s in a blizzard in the middle of the Berkshires. The solution? The prolific man who illustrated Americana.


Right Field of Dreams by Stephen Kaplan

Directed by Alan Paul    

Ten-year-old Tim would much rather be watching ‘Damn Yankees’ than playing right field in his Little League game.


A Date by Diana Metzger

Directed by Alan Paul    

Two 20-somethings, in a post-pandemic society, attempt a face-to-face first date, with some outside assistance.


The Moon is Full of It by Jim Moss

Directed by Matt Penn

The King's jester attempts to woo the King's chief scientist.


Gimme Shelter by Robert Weibezahl

Directed by Alan Paul    

An unconventional septuagenarian and a 20-something with an uncertain future forge an unexpected connection at a retirement village’s bus stop.


The creative team includes Peggy Walsh (costume design), Marcus Kearns (scenic design), Lucas Palweski (lighting design) and Eric Shimelonis (sound design). Hope Rose Kelly (Production Stage Manager), Merit Glover (Assistant Stage Manager). Casting by Pat McCorkle CSA and Rebecca Weiss CSA.