Take Ten II: More Ten-Minute Plays
Book Review by Jonathan Frank
It is not all that difficult to discern the appeal of the ten-minute play. For playwrights, it allows them a chance to flex a different set of artistic muscles and forces them to strip a work to its barest essences (ie: drama, plot and character development) with no room for extraneous elements or descriptions. For performers, since ten-minute plays are usually produced as a series, it allows them the chance to inhabit a variety of characters. For acting teachers, the genre is ideal for providing scene work for their students as the plays tell a complete story, unlike a cutting from a longer play. And for theaters, presenting an evening devoted to ten-minute plays not only provides the perfect way to acquaint audiences with a variety of playwrights, but also a method to 'audition' writers for the possible inclusion of one of their full-length shows into an upcoming season.
Editors Eric Lane and Nina Shengold have compiled a new anthology dedicated to the genre entitled Take Ten II: More Ten-Minute Plays, a sampling of thirty-five mini dramas that include works by such acclaimed playwrights as Christopher Durang, David Ives, Mary Louise Wilson and Donald Margulies. The plays have been culled from a variety of theatrical festivals and series, such as the Humana Festival and the A Train series, as well as being developed at various theaters across the country, including the Guthrie Theater, Julliard, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Long Wharf Theatre.
Reading through the mini-plays, the wonder is not that the anthology contains some well-written works, but rather at how many of the writers were able to successfully distill so much into such a short space. The best of the bunch is Candyass, a drama by Caleen Sinette Jennings in which an African American college freshman who tries to add a degree of hipness into his job as a classical disc jockey, comes into conflict with a listener from a homeless shelter with an ax to grind. The characters and the situation are better developed than many recent full-length plays, even on Broadway, and makes one eager to read and see some of her other works.
As is to be expected, the plays cover a wide range of themes and styles, from gay and lesbian dramas (including one of the best plays, Daniel on Thursday by Garth Wingfield, which would make a dream acting class scene as it features two men in a gay bar, one of whom plays flip-flopping mind games throughout), to surrealism (Emotional Baggage by Nina Shengold, characters of which embody the personification of lost luggage), to 9/11 reaction pieces (Diana Son's hard-hitting The Moon Please), to sharp political dramas (The Sniper by Anthony David and Elaine Romero, which deals with Israeli/Palestinian politics) and even some one-person shows that would be well worth looking into by actors questing for new monologues.
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