Theatre Review: A Mixed Bag of Offerings


Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.

The 3rd Annual Six By Ten: A Festival Of Original 10-Minute Plays, written by several (see below), directed by Shari Johnson. Produced by The Barn Players (Kansas City). First produced 2010. (Seen December 5, 2010.)

Writing a review of the Barn Players’ 3rd annual Six by Ten play festival is complicated. The point of the production, after all, is that these are new works by local playwrights. More complicated for me is that one of the plays is written by my friend (and KC Stage‘s December 2010 spotlight — read it on my blog here) Peter Bakely. Add to the mix that the plays have to be ten minutes long, which is a lot harder than it sounds, and it’s difficult to come up with anything that feels like constructive criticism.

The first play, “Send-Off” by Justin Martinez, was the weakest of the six plays. Plagued by the issue that most of the plays had of not really having much of a story arc (but as mentioned, it’s difficult to have a start, middle, and end when limited by ten minutes of story), the plot was difficult to follow. Starting out with two men talking over a beer, I got the feeling it was going to be an exploration of the father/son bond — and Jordan Foote and Tom Sutton did a pretty decent job of portraying the father and son with problems. But the play ended up being about the son’s exploits in the fraternity and the server ends up being an undercover cop working with the father to get the son to admit to doing acts. It felt like too much plot for such a short amount of time, and came across more as a scene from a much larger work.

“Honor Among Thieves”, by Rich Pauli, followed, and while it had a bit more of a story — a robber gives a couple the choice of either being robbed or giving up the name of one of their neighbors to be robbed instead — it, too, just seemed to ‘end’ without much of a conclusion. Josh Gleeson was almost too hyper as the burglar, and came across a little too strong — and I couldn’t help but wonder why neither of the couple (played by Alexa Washington and Kylee Wallen) tried to take on the burglar, as he didn’t seem to have a weapon and wasn’t a body type that seemed like it would be hard to take on. It had some good laughs, though, and the moral was an interesting one to think about. This was a tie for my second favorite of the six.

I think “Vicky’s Desk”, by Peter Bakely, was my favorite — and I’d like to think I would have said that regardless of my friendship with Pete. It was the only one of the six that seemed to have a complete story arc — about two people in an office looting an ex-co-worker’s desk, with undertones of the fear that this will happen to them eventually — and was especially prevalent to me, as I work in an office environment myself. My only issue is the director’s choice to have the two actors mime going through the various office supplies. I know it’s only a ten minute long piece, and I know that the play mentions a LOT of various office supplies, and so can understand the choice, but it never quite plays, although it did get better as the play continued.

“The Letter”, by Kurtis L. Thiel, was about the not-so-science-fiction idea of getting a letter to let you know when you are going to die. The couple discuss about it being for the husband John’s father, who is apparently sick with Alzheimer’s (they never really name the disease, but the constant comments about how they’re not even sure if he’ll remember it’s his birthday leads me to assume that’s what it is) and living with them. But midway through the show, the wife realizes it could feasibly be for the son, as he is a ‘Junior’. The question as to whether to open it becomes more about the son than the father, and it for the most part followed a complete story arc as well.

“4 Girls”, by Joshua Efron — like “Send-Off” — felt more like a scene from a bigger piece that we didn’t see. A story of one man’s search, Nathan (played by Clint Andrew Hall), for true love (he dreamed that a gypsy cursed him to only have four girls that could be ‘the one’), it just kind of ended. While you could see the build up of the character of Jennifer (played by Lauren Vaughan) being secretly in love with Nathan, she just kind of blurted it out and walks out. With a little work, or maybe a longer time limit, this could have easily become my favorite of the six.

Finally, “Joined at the Hip”, by Michael Ruth, again feels like it just ‘ends’ without much of a dénouement. The story of a daughter (played by Marcie Ramirez) visiting her mother (played by Tamara Kingston) due to the mother having a broken hip. The story goes through almost as many plot twists as “Send-Off”, and it is another one that suffers from trying to put too much into too short of a space.

The Barn Players should be commended for promoting new work by local playwrights, even though the end result is mixed. Sometimes, the reason why you put on a production should outweigh the production itself.

The 3rd Annual Six By Ten ran December 3 – 5, 2010.