Scott Goodman, Mandi Elkins Hutchins, Gracie Taylor, Rebekah Dow & Ryan Watson in Jennifer Donlon’s Hashtag. Photo courtesy The Bard’s Town.
The 6th Annual Ten-Tucky Festival
3000 Words or Less, by Zachary Burrell, directed by Amos Driesbach
Hashtag, by Jennifer Donlon, directed by Katye Heim
Tradition, by Rachel White, directed by Ben Gierhart
The Off Chance, by Teri Foltz, directed by Ryan Watson
It’s Always Something, by Courtney Groszhans, directed by Corey Music
A Family Affair, by Gary Wadley, directed by Jake Beamer
Elephants, by Jordan Elizabeth Henry, Sabrina Spalding
The Ward of the Wings, by Doug Schutte, directed by Beth Tantanella
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Ten-minute play festivals are often populated by material that cannot be strictly classified as plays. But the academic distinction between sketch and fully formed play may reasonably give way to a simpler, more binary metric: it either works or it doesn’t. Some of the finest writing in this sixth year of shorts produced by The Bard’s Town feels as if they are either lifted from a longer piece or are the seeds of a larger story.
So perhaps the true test is to determine if, within ten or so minutes we have been introduced to a story that has been satisfactorily resolved. To connect fully with an audience so immediately requires thrift and economy, qualities that were in sufficient supply in Courtney Grozhans’ It’s Always Something, a quick and insightful absurdist comedy about the unrealistic expectations of courtship in a media-saturated culture. It may also be feature the sharpest comic performances of the evening from Tamara Dearing, Megan Adair, and Abby Braune.
Jennifer Donlon’s clever Hashtag does almost as good a job illustrating its satirical thesis of the incredibly shallow narcissim inherent in social media being the primary delivery system of current events. Both Hashtag and It’s Always Something also do a good job of utilizing larger casts in such a brief run time.
Other comedies were Doug Schutte’s Heaven-set tale of unexpected reunion and reconciliation, The Ward of the Wings, which gets laughs, but the performance just misses the full potential of the tenderness the script seems to be reaching for, although Hannah Eileen Pruitt was a welcome new face, and Zachary Burrell’s 3,000 Words or Less, which uses a clever device to explore an American culture rapidly abandoning the range and expressiveness of language. Scott Goodman and Abbey Braune do very good work here.
A trio of more dramatic offerings stood out amongst the humor. The Off Chance, by Teri Foltz, was an observant meditation on the rhythms of life often mistaken for random coincidence, and was nicely played with unforced understatement by Megan Adair and Tony Pike. Less modest in its ambitions was Jordan Elizabeth Henry’s Elephants, which explored the a young girl’s trauma and subsequent struggle after the loss of her mother. Gracie Taylor is very good as the girl, all innocence and high spirits in the beginning, and then carefully revealing grief, pain, and confusion as we discover her secret inner life. In Rachel White’s Tradition, a man and woman spend a cold Christmas night in a blizzard, but the truth of why they are alone is exposed in a startlingly simple moment of brutality, and then resolved with an enigmatic visitation. White delivers a fresh and resonant take on a cliché with the subtlest subtext of time and place, with restrained, powerful performances from Lenae McKee Price, David Galloway, and Will Gantt.
The whole evening kicked off with Gary Wadley’s A Family Affair, which at first struck me as somewhat sexist and patronizing, and with a staging that felt a little uncertain overall, but after I had pondered it a bit, I suspect Wadley’s idea is to illustrate how the embrace of female objectification in American culture has denigrated women. Watching Mandee McKelvey’s oversexed cartoon fantasy figure Roxanne vamp her way through a young Seymour’s (Patrick Taft) imagination is funny enough, but the note of acceptance from one generation to another muddled the critical point just a little.
Overall this was a good year for Ten-Tucky, with five of the eight playwrights names that I was not familiar with, which should be the point of such a festival: introducing new voices. The ensemble nature of most of the casting always makes it a showcase for good actors, and the strongest impression comes from those who appear in multiple roles, which this year included Megan Adair, Mandi Elkins Hutchins, Gracie Taylor, Scott Goodman, Jake Reber and Bard’s Town regular Ryan Watson.
The 6th Annual Ten-Tucky Festival
September 15-18, 22- 25 (7:30 PM)
Advanced Tickets $16 ($15 for seniors ages 65+, and $14 for students).
At the door: $18/$17/$16
Recommended for ages 16+
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205