Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 19, 2024

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, "10x10 New Play Festival"

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through March 10, 2024
By Jarice Hanson

Kicking off Barrington Stage Co.’s 30th year, the 13th annual “10 X 10 New Play Festival” is
ceremonially the start of the theatre season in the Berkshires. The “10 X 10” is often bold, edgy, and frequently, very funny. It  allows audiences to see some stalwart Barrington actors switch characters seamlessly as they leap into 10 different 10-minute plays.  
The opening number is always a highlight of this festival and this year’s “Winter Nights,” sung to the tune of “Summer Nights” from “Grease,” is particularly witty and representative of cold New England and in particular, the Pittsfield location and the long theatrical legacy of BSC.
The very talented cast this year includes Ross Griffin, Gisela Chípe, Matt Neely, Peggy Pharr Wilson, Naire Poole, and Robert Zuckerman. These consummate pros know how to take the intimate stage and play to the audience. When they seemingly morph from one character to another, sometimes transforming their look, age, and ethnicity, their talents are on full display.
The plays chosen for this year’s collection range widely in scope and style. The playwrights include some veteran writers and some relative newcomers. Five of the plays are directed by Alan Paul, Artistic Director of BSC, and Matthew Penn, television and theatre director. One of the joys of the collection is that each play is presented as a unique vision of the authors’ work. Congratulations to the directors for finding the right balance and interpretation of these very different short plays.
Evaluating 10-minute plays is sometimes tricky. Often short plays lack any wrap up, or conclusion. But even more importantly, can the authors, directors, and actors tell a complete story? Among the most successful in this year’s lineup are “The Consultant” by Brent Askari, which pits a senior couple (Peggy Pfarr Wilson and Robert Zuckerman) who have won a session with a sex therapist in a raffle, against the methods of the therapist (Gisela Chípe). “Meeting Fingerman” by Mark Evan Chimsky prompts painful thoughts of life in a pogram where Zuckerman portrays an elderly Jewish man who recalls a shameful past when confronted by a younger writer, played by Ross Griffin. A note about this one—Zuckerman’s portrayal is so beautifully crafted; the price of admission is worth watching his master class in character interpretation. 
“Snow Falling Faintly” by James McLindon tells the story of a mother and son, lovingly portrayed by Peggy Pharr Wilson and Ross Griffin in an existential treatise about snow shoveling, loss, and moving on. Finally, Glenn Alterman’s clever “A Doubt My Play” with the entire cast, is a very insightful examination of playwriting from inside the playwright’s head!