Hildreth, Kevin O’Connell, & Rasell Holt. photo: Crystal Rae Ludwick
Various writers and directors
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
You expect ten-minute plays to play on the lighter end of the scale, and generally speaking, it is true that the sketch-like length will tend toward comedy. But even superciliousness can carry thoughtfulness and observation about the human condition. Each year at Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Tens reminds us of that.
Mike Lew’s In Paris You Will Find Many Baguettes but Only One True Love
(directed by Rachel Dart) is a broadly comic tale of two North American women who have traveled to Paris. One is nursing a broken heart (Laura Lee Caudill), while the other (a very perky Avery Deutsch) has fallen ridiculously in love with a mime (David Ball); and I DO mean ridiculously. The big dose of pantomime is well executed with just enough satire to make it palatable, but truth is revealed that will test the bounds of friendship, and conjure an old adage about what the heart seeks may be found closest to home? Or something like that.
Halfway, by Emily Schwend (directed by Kyle Haden) felt familiar, perhaps from an iteration of The Tens from years past, and is decidedly less comic, although I found Ash Patlan’s anxious portrayal of a woman in a halfway house meeting with her sister to be a finely tuned balance of comedy and pathos. Kayla Peters was an able counterforce as the sister.
The comedy in Coffee Break, by Tasha Gordon-Solmon (directed by Emily Moler) was not as black as the coffee, but the absurdity was rich, as we witness two male baristas (Russell Sperberg & Julian Socha) perform sharply drawn spoofs of Bohemian poetry that comment on the giddy conversations between two female patrons (Reagan Stovenour & Angelica Santiago), one of whom interprets each artfully drawn image in her latte foam as a secret communication from one of the baristas. The contrast of willful romantic delusion and pretentious intellectualism is delightful.
A bit of the Grand Guignol is at play in Gregory Hischak’s Poor Shem: A Tiny Play For Three Characters And A Photocopier (directed by Kyle Haden), an expressionist commentary on the drudgery of the 9 to 5 work pattern that feels like a sequel to the cult film Office Space. The tight staccato exchange of dialogue between Rasell Holt, Ashley N. Hildreth, & Kevin O’Connell was akin to watching the ball being bandied about on a basketball court; it was swift, sharp, and on target.
3:59 am: a drag race for two actors, by Marco Ramirez (directed by Shareef Elkady) was a tour de force of mirrored physically and vocally adroit performances by Seun Soyemi & Josh Fulton. I have no idea if this lyrical, poetic piece was written specifically for two young Black men, but it begins in stillness then moves into hyperdrive before landing again in repose, all the while feeling not just an examination of masculinity in general, and I honestly don’t know if the fact that the actors were African American lent it a specific cultural flavor or not. In any event, Soyemi and Fulton do good work here.
Finally, Unpleasantries, by Sarah Grace Welbourn and Annabeth Bondor-Stone (directed by Rachel Dart), finds humor in the meaningless small talk in the elevator of an apartment building, the intersection of ten lives on varying levels and degrees of intimacy. Trivialities share the same space with marital strife, pre-adolescent tantrums, and at least one torrid rendezvous. Brett Schultz, Jonathan Moises Olivares, Laura Lee Caudill, Rebby Yuer Foster, Silvia Daly Bond, David Ball, Emma Maltby, Russell Sperberg, Amber Avant, & Julian Socha are the loose comic ensemble at work here.
One of the most memorable elements of the 2019 Tens is the way the transitions were staged as opportunities for creative connectivity between the plays that were almost as entertaining as the plays themselves.
The Tens is always a thumbnail sketch of The Professional Training Company at ATL, and it is no surprise that they have the requisite skills for this program, but it is worth noting that a healthy diversity is present here, not just racially, but in terms of physical types; different body shapes and sizes are represented as well. It may arise from the practical need to provide a range of casting options, but however it comes to be, it is welcome.
And the later curtain time on these shows means you don’t have to rush through the dinner hours to claim your seats.
January 15, 16, 17, & 19 @ 9:30pm
January 18 @ 10:00pm
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com. But spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.