10x10 New Play Festival

Thirteenth Version at Barrington Stage Company

By: - Feb 20, 2024


10x10 New Play Festival.

Ten new 10-minute plays by Glenn Alterman, Brent Askari, Mark Evan Chimsky, Jordan Ealey, John Mabey, Jennifer Maisel, James McLindon, Diana Metzger, Christopher Oscar Pena and Jessica Provenz. Directed by Alan Paul and Matthew Penn

Cast:  Gisela Chipe, Ross Griffin, Matt Neely, Peggy Pharr Wilson, Naire Poole, Robert Zukerman

Barrington Stage Company
St. Germain Stage, Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield

Through March 10 Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

2 hours (including one intermission)

Tickets: $25 – $45 Reservations and information: 413-2368888;

In the dead of winter the 10x10 New Play Festival is a much anticipated experience. The current version is the 13th. By all accounts this is one of its strongest iterations.

The format of the evening is both challenging and arresting for the cast and audience. There is a tight thumbnail of just ten minutes to land the concept and characters. It takes focus, skill and discipline to accomplish that.

Typically, we experienced a mesh of both personal and local, as well as,  universal. That ranges from Berkshire based shoveling snow, visiting a pot shop, or getting stranded while hiking Mt. Greylock, to harrowing reflections of the Holocaust set in a shetl or a lonely man telling a tale of love and loss to anyone who will listen.

In this roller coaster of vignettes we bounce along from amusement to pathos. To navigate this experience it’s best to fasten one’s emotional seat belt while preparing to laugh and cry.

A through line of thirteen seasons is the remarkably versatile Peggy Pharr Wilson. The veteran actress has a spot on ability to convey the essence of a character with a remarkable economy of means. Much of this is mastered in expressions and body language.

In a nighty she was first up in  The Consultant (by Brent Askari). She and her husband Bill (Robert Zuckerman) have won a sexual therapy session with Celeste. (Gisela Chipe). She is more willing to experiment and slice up their marriage than he. The therapist is amusingly invasive in this intimate process.

Pharr Wilson appears again in a gem of the suite Snow Falling Faintly (By James McLindon). A recent widow, she and her Son (Ross Griffin) are shoveling after a blizzard with some 20 plus inches. There is banter with him asking why she is too cheap to spring for a snow blower. The moment is about coping with loss and getting on with life.

It takes precision to keep the flow of plays on pace. With a generic set there is an effective use of props and lighting to create transitions. The formats include monologue, two-handers, and ensemble pieces.

I Don’t (by Jordan Ealey) and The Open Door (Jessica Provenz) focused on relationships. The former had a bride (Naire Poole)) in wedding dress on the run from the altar. For refuge she has broken into the apartment of a former lover (Ross Griffin). In the latter a door stands between a couple Debbie (Gisela Chipe) and Dan (Matt Nealy). Recently she has survived some 50 dates and now in his 40s he proclaims being ready. The palpable tension entails the first look when the door opens.

Some of the plays have notable ambition but need more finesse. With its Holocaust theme Meeting Fingerman (Mark Evan Chimsky) is too weighty to stick its point in just ten minutes. I never quite connected with The Welcome (by Jennifer Maisel). A Doubt My Play (Glenn Alterman) overreached with a play-within-a-play format. The muffled author (Nealy) is bound and gagged as a panel of writers both pan and praise the work. As a friend would say it was too much “Inside Baseball.”

The monologue Can I Tell You a Story (Christopher Oscar Pena) has Cory (Ross Griffin) on a park bench pointing out nearby venues shared with his deceased lover. The heart wrenching memories, it is revealed, are addressed to a man who does not speak English.

There are fun and games evoking laughs in High Time (Diana Metzger) when seniors, out of curiosity, stumble into a pot shop. We had a somewhat similar experience.

On the drive home it was exhilarating to yet again compare and contrast a matinee of lively theatre in the Berkshires. We were like slumbering bears waking from deep sleep with the munchies.