Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

10x10 New Play Festival
Barrington Stage Company
Review by Fred Sokol

Matt Neely, Camille Upshaw, Robert Zukerman,
Sky Marie, Peggy Pharr Wilson, and Skyler Gallun

Photo by David Dashiell
Barrington Stage Company's 10x10 New Play Festival marks Alan Paul's debut as artistic director a smashing one. He and Matthew Penn have split directorship of 10 sparkling works. The collection is quick and winsome, and the great variety adds up to unique late winter entertainment as it continues in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through March 5.

Comet-like, 10 minute plays catch and hold attention–and before one can begin to consider or ponder, conclude, on to the next. They do not require enormous settings although scenic designer Marcus Kearns has come up with one nifty choice after another. So, too, Peggy Walsh's wardrobe selections are complementary and Lucas Pawelski's precise lighting adds tone. Splendid acting that requires versatility, line mastery, and quick-change dexterity carries the day or evening on the cozy St. Germain Stage. Throughout, this presentation heightens sense of occasion. That's fulfilling for those on stage as well as those in the audience.

All theater is dependent upon snagging the viewer at first glance, but the stakes elevate given just 10 minutes or so for performance. Director Paul (with musical accompaniment/performance by Eric Shimelonis) begins with a swift opening introductory number. It's "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," the Frank Loesser song from Guys and Dolls, except these delectable replacement lyrics set everyone up for 10x10. This starting piece yields to Right Field of Dreams, authored by Stephen Kaplan and enacted by Skyler Gallun, Matt Neely, and Camille Upshaw. Find out what might go through a child's mind if, at 10 years of age and cajoled to play Little League baseball, the kid muses, instead, about the musical Damn Yankees. It's sweet and charming.

The following number welcomes actresses Sky Marie and Peggy Pharr Wilson to join Gallun and Neely on Diana Metzger's A Date. The third short, Anything You Want, centers around a photograph of a celebrity. Arlene Jaffe's play is located in Pittsfield and the Berkshire region. A young woman needs the picture for graduation, and the artist with whom she converses is played by Robert Zukerman. Next, Gimme Shelter by Robert Weibezahl takes place within proximity of a retirement place. Listen closely and you will discern "Geezer Acres." Before intermission, Real Magic, by Brent Askari, features Carl (Matt Neely) having issues as a magician. Heads up to sports fanatics who listen/watch talk radio or TV. Actor Skyler Gallun flips in a manic rant that actual show host Chris "Mad Dog" Russo would love: the character named Doug (Gallun) recalls a youthful version of the excitable Russo, who is often dubbed "the dog."

The second half scenes are mostly more weighty than the initial portion. The Moon Is Full of It, with Neely as Tollak and Upshaw as Huberta, juxtaposes a jester with a scientist in a thoughtful play by by Jim Moss. If I Go First features Robert Zukerman as Harry and Peggy Pharr Wilson as Lizzy. Each of the actors has appeared often at Barrington Stage and multiple times in a BSC 10x10 program. The circumstances of Michael Brady's play are familiar ones: Lizzy is terminal and requests that she enters hospice care while Harry has trouble believing or coping or being of assistance. High caliber acting further distinguishes this compassionate work. Advance knowledge of the plot should not diminish the quality of performance.

Allie Costa's Piece of Cake, lighter fare, brings significance to a relationship between a grown woman and her father. The ninth play (fourth of the second group) is called The Haunting Package. Matthew Penn directs Deirdre Girard's clever and spooky scripting which draws focus on a hotel, a bed in one room–all in a country setting. The finale is Michael Burgan's All Aboard! which has much to do with, yes, a train, Metro-North, New Haven, and various passengers.

The cast hops on stage just after play number 10 to conclude the effervescent evening with a recall of "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." Hats off to the ensemble and creative team for pulling together this blast of theater, however enthusiastic or eccentric or wistful the components might be.

The 10x10 New Play Festival runs through March 12, 2023, at Barrington Stage Company, St. Germain Stage, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-236-8888 or visit