Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 22, 2021

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Co. ,10 X 10 New Play Festival Tenth Edition

Barrington Stage Co., Pittsfield, MA

March 11-14 and 18-21 

Jarice Hanson


photo by Daniel Dashiell
The Tenth Edition of the annual Barrington Stage Co.’s 10 X 10 New Play Festival packs the same energy, spontaneity, and talent as every previous New Play Festival.  The immensely talented cast, recognizable to anyone who frequents this gem of the Berkshires, includes Doug Harris, Maya Loren Jackson, Matt Neely, Keri Safran, Peggy Pharr Wilson, and Robert Zuckerman.  Directors are Julianne Boyd and Matthew Penn, and the talented authors (alphabetically) include:  Ellen Abrams, Brent Askari, Jonathan Cook, Alex Dremann, Christine Foster, John Minigan, Scott Mullen, Marj O'Neill-Butler, Jessica Provenz, and Walter Thinnes


The plays were performed without an audience but recorded to be streamed to audience members.  It’s a tribute to the individual playwrights and the entire production team that the plays continue to touch our heartstrings, make us laugh out loud, and sigh, with recognizable life stories that make up each of the ten minute sketches.


This year, the prologue took on an Elizabethan tone as actors cleverly identified the guidelines mandated by the Actors’ Equity Association, including six feet of distance between actors, no touching, no sharing of props, and three mandated  Covid tests per week. Despite all rehearsals conducted on Zoom, these skilled actors managed to connect and find the joy in their performances while exploring a panoply of characters and establishing a connection with the audience, even through whatever screen the audience chose to use.


Themes ranged from parental stresses and mother/daughter relationships to Lizzie Borden manipulating the town’s menfolk, to a misfit Cupid with a New Jersey accent to a father who can’t admit his wife is dead because he doesn’t want her to lose the Presidency of the Senior Community in which he lives.  Each of the plays was introduced by sound designer Alexander Sovronsky’s brilliant segue from piece to piece, and every one of the ten plays smacked of originality and sharp writing.  It would be hard to choose a favorite in the bunch, because every piece had something to make it special.


Even if you’re missing theater, streaming the 10 X 10 New Play Festival reminds you what quality theater is, and why it continues to capture our imaginations and take us somewhere else, even for ten minutes.  The show reminds viewers that like theater, life goes on, and we may all have at least a smattering of a happy ending.