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Quirky comedies dominate "Ten by Ten in the Triangle," the Carrboro, NC-based ArtsCenter's third annual international festival of 10-minute plays. There might not be "Ten Bolts of Lightning" here, but there is more than enough electricity to justify a trip to this festival of wild-and-crazy one-acts.
"Something Went Wrong," written by Delaware playwright Matt Casarino and directed by Live Wire Theatre Company artistic director Scott Franco, is a 21st century version of the battling Bickersons in which a long-suffering wife (Katja Hill) seems more irritated that her husband (Rus Hames) used her best butcher knife to kill a clown (Tommy Hoang) than the fact that he has committed murder, brought his victim home with him, and left the dead clown in her living room.
"Measuring Matthew," written by Colorado dramatist Patrick Gabridge and directed by local director Dan Helias, is a jocular journey into the wacky world on a nerdish obsessive/compulsive-turned-stalker (Thaddaeus Edwards) who drove his former girlfriend (Eryn Makepeace) crazy by quantifying every aspect of their relationship, but finds himself strangely attractive to a like-minded neighbor (Lauren Walker).
"Interrogating the Power of Art," written by Vermont College teacher and playwright Diane Lefer and directed by Transactors Improv Co. director Greg Hohn, revives the old good cop/bad cop routine and employs Jackson Sowell and Victor Lee to take it to comical extremes while giving Jill Greeson the third degree about art.
"Hating Beckett," written by Samuel French Award-winning playwright John Yearley and directed by Transactors Improv Co. performer Jill Greeson, is another romantic encounter run amok, when she (Lauren Walker) starts pelting him (Joe Brack) with dinner rolls while an exasperated waiter (Thaddaeus Edwards) futilely tries to calm the contentious couple.
"Thorn in Her Side," written by prize-winning dramatist Sara Snyder and directed by Lynden Harris, is a whimsical story, set on the night of a couple's 25th anniversary party at the local Rotary Club. She (Nicole Farmer) inexplicably prefers to skip the celebration, and he (Victor Lee) tries to find out why.
"The Rental," written by Los Angeles playwright Mark Harvey Levine and directed by local actress and director Meredith Sause, is a hilarious foray into dating in the 21st century. When a girlfriend hires her (Jill Greeson) a "boyfriend" (Joe Brack) to help her celebrate her birthday, she finds this rent-a-date romance both the best relationship of her life and strangely (and increasingly) unsettling.
"Young Love," written by dramatist Jay Hanagan and directed by "Ten by Ten in the Triangle" festival producer and artistic director Lynden Harris, pits an immigrant mother (Nicole Farmer) against a thoroughly Americanized daughter (Eryn Makepeace). After a long dry spell, mom has a date and her daughter wants to make sure that she is truly ready for every eventuality.
"On the Natural Form," written by Providence, Rhode Island playwright Woodbridge M. Kelly and directed by Thomas "TeKay" King, is a mildly amusing two-character comedy starring Thaddaeus Edwards and Jackson Sowell. Edwards plays an inventor, and Sowell tries to convince him that his great new invention is nothing more than a common everyday object.
"Night Before Last," written by Actor's Theatre of Louisville Ten-Minute Play contest finalist Doug Reed and directed by Thomas King, is set on the eve of the controversial execution in the 1920s of anarchists Sacco (Joe Brack) and Vanzetti (Rus Hames), whom their followers fervently believe are innocent of all the charges of armed robbery and murder for which that have been convicted. Then Sacco confesses something that changes everything.
"Ship of Fools," written by Colorado playwright Patrick Gabridge and directed by Greg Hohn, is a tepid Theatre of the Absurd-type exercise that combines role-playing and disaster at sea. After their ship goes down, Nicole Farmer and Katja Hill pass the time in a leaky lifeboat with a series of grating role-playing exercises more suitable for an acting class than a perilous trip across a hostile ocean.
Throughout the "Ten by Ten in the Triangle" festival, the acting is sharp and the direction is first rate. Each one-act rises (or falls) based on the quality of the writing, which is sometimes uneven but never uninteresting.
The ArtsCenter presents "Ten by Ten in the Triangle" Thursday-Saturday, July 15-17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 18, at 3 p.m. in its West End Theatre, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina. $10. 919/929-2787. The ArtsCenter: http://www.artscenterlive.org/theater.html.