Review: ‘10x10x10” at Fells Point Corner Theatre

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Ten stories, ten plays, ten minutes per play. That was the set up for 10x10x10, a collection of plays by local area playwrights, which played at Fells Point Corner Theatre. The audience got to vote for the top three plays at the show’s end, winning cash awards for three of the playwrights. The plays traversed common themes, studied relationships, and threw in a surprise here and there.

The cast. Photo by Tessa Sollway.
The cast. Photo by Tessa Sollway.

The show started with Jump by Andrea Fine Carey, directed by Steve Goldklang, which centered around a man (Gareth Kelly) about to jump off the proverbial bridge and counseled to come down from the ledge and live again, by an old woman, cancer sufferer (Helenmary Ball). The man has lost it all: family, job, self-respect. Things take a surprising turn when the man’s impromptu counselor leaves him with a drastic example of how to deal with life’s problems. Ball’s performance was unforgettable.

The second play was Henry by Mario Correa, directed by Michael Byrne Zemarel which peeked into the encounter of two former lovers, John (David Shoemaker) and Lucy (the engaging Holly Elizabeth Gibbs) who meet in the street and reluctantly and painfully talk about their lives after they have moved on, John with his wife, a son named Henry (and a baby on the way), and Lucy with her dog, named—Henry. Awkward. There was enough material there and strong performances enough to explore further, maybe a short two-act with flashbacks showing what went wrong in the relationship. Shoemaker and Gibbs produced a strong chemistry, though they played exes.

Next up was When I Fall in Love, It Will Be… by Susan Middaugh, well directed by Alexander Scally, which told the story of two senior citizens, Florence and Ed (the excellent Dianne Hood and Peter Wilkes) with Alzheimer’s-impaired spouses living in an assisted living facility. The spouses in the facility have found each other romantically; will their counterparts on the outside find love as well? I loved watching Hood and Wilkes; I wanted to see them on a date—and beyond.

L to R: David Shoemaker (Scott) and Gareth Kelly (Mark) in 'Monument.' Photo by Tessa Sollway.
L to R: David Shoemaker (Scott) and Gareth Kelly (Mark) in ‘Monument.’ Photo by Tessa Sollway.

The fourth show, Monument by Mark Scharf, directed by Howard Berkowitz followed a seemingly trivial conversation between a writer (Kelly) and a roofer (the outstanding Shoemaker). There was a lot of depth in this one. The men’s wives know each other, and it’s clear that each has much to learn from the other. The roofer creates metal sculptures in his spare time, and the writer yearns to work with his hands (besides typing). The emotional left hook that floors the audience left me wanting more.

Next in line was Opportunity Knocks by Richard Pauli, directed by Scally, which mirrored a scene that happens quite often in offices everywhere: a boss giving a subordinate a “big” assignment. The icily excellent, Zarah Rautell played a boss who gave the comically gifted Gibbs, her subordinate, a Byzantine, cloaked-in-secret, Monty Pythonesque assignment. The play was a verbal potpourri of doublespeak and jabberwocky—loved it.

For the Foot of a Hill by Justin Lawson Isett, directed by Zemarel, took place during World War I, Christmas Eve 1914, during the famous “Christmas Truce” ceasefire. Zach Bobpst played a British school teacher turned soldier, warming himself by a fire, when happened upon by a German soldier (Tim Neil). (I had a minor quibble with the American-style World War II helmet the Brit used.) I would have liked to have seen more of a natural rapport and connection between Bobpst and Neil. Anti-war sentiment prevailed in this one.

L to R: Peter Wilkes (Mr. Langford), Holly Elizabeth Gibbs (Patricia), and Dianne Hood (Mrs. Langford) in 'Compos Mentis.' Photo by Tessa Sollway.
L to R: Peter Wilkes (Mr. Langford), Holly Elizabeth Gibbs (Patricia), and Dianne Hood (Mrs. Langford) in ‘Compos Mentis.’ Photo by Tessa Sollway.

The seventh play, Compos Mentis by Marilyn Millstone, directed by Goldklang, follows a delightful elderly couple (Hood and Wilkes, wonderfully paired again) with a devious (and clever) plan to escape the clutches of Silver Glades Independent Senior Living Condominiums. Gibbs played the nosey condominium administrator with impeccable comic timing.

In Eat Your Greens, and Other Commandments by Alice Stanley, and directed by Scally, a young woman (Barbara Madison Hauck) has many things to reveal to her clueless parents (Kelly and Rautell), who she can’t seem to get through to. Her brother (Neil) has a deception he should reveal as well. The pacing was a bit flat in this one.

In Whatlaw by Tavish Forsyth, directed by Zemarel, a young man (Shoemaker) ponders the eternal question “What If?” Was the stove left on? Did the car get stolen? On it went for ten minutes. Shoemaker was part mime, part comic. Shoemaker’s one-man performance was energetic, frenetic and engaging throughout.

L to R: Zack Bopst (Herb) and Barbara Madison Hauck (June) in 'Babo and the Bird.'Photo by Tessa Sollway.
L to R: Zack Bopst (Herb) and Barbara Madison Hauck (June) in ‘Babo and the Bird.’Photo by Tessa Sollway.

Last but not least was Babo and the Bird by Pete Taylor, directed by Berkowitz, a sitcom like play following a house-sitting couple, June and Herb (Hauck and Bobpst), in charge of a wayward parrot, Wally. Silliness ensued. I grinned; I laughed. Hauck and Bobpst, kept up a dizzying, zany, 1930s-style comedic pace throughout.

I liked Andrew Porter’s minimal set design. Shoemaker, Ball, Hauck, Hood, Rautell and Gibbs are players to watch. This reporter’s picks mirrored the winners exactly: Jump, Monument and Compos Mentis for first through third place respectively. I would put Babo and the Bird and Henry 4th and 5th. Maybe critics and the public can be on the same critical wavelength after all.

10 x 10 x 10 will return next year, and run from March 31, 2017 through April 16, 2017.  I predict it will become an annual, must-see tradition.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

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10 x 10 x 10 played through June 12, 2016 at Fells Point Corner Theatre – 251 South Ann Street, in Baltimore, MD. Fells Point Corner Theatre’s next show is In the Closet by Siegmund Fuchs, opening July 8th. Purchase tickets online.

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