by Macey Levin

The unofficial kickoff for the Berkshire Theatre season is Barrington Stage Company’s 10×10 New Play Festival – 10 short plays by 10 different authors running approximately 10 minutes each.

The opening has the 10×10 cast singing and dancing to a clever lyric by cast member Matt Neely using the music of Guys and Dolls’ “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat” that introduces the show along with BSC’s new artistic director Alan Paul.  The six-member cast (Skyler Gallun, Sky Marie, Matt Neely, Camille Upshaw, Peggy Pharr Wilson and Robert Zukerman) appear in various roles in mostly light-hearted plays that examine human quirks and sensitivities.  Some of them have clever, unexpected comic turns with occasional dramatic moments.  The production’s directors are Mr. Paul and Matt Penn.

Stephen Kaplan’s “Right Field of Dreams” depicts Tim (Skyler Gallun,) a little-league baseball player, who has been inserted into right field in the bottom of the ninth because no one else is available, but he doesn’t want to be there.  The coach (Matt Neely) tries to ease his fears to no avail.  While Tim tries to prepare himself he is visited by a ball player (Camille Upshaw,) perhaps in his imagination, who could have come from the film “A League of Their Own” about a women’s baseball team. Gallun is a terrific pre-adolescent – gangly, immature and very likable.  Neely is both stern and supportive as he deals with Tim’s fears. There’s a mystical aura around Upshaw as the woman who may or may not be there.

In  “A Date” by Diana Metzger, Faith (Sky Marie) is waiting for Jeff (Skyler Gallun) on a blind date accompanied by her “dating translator” Mr. Collins (Matt Neely).  Soon the frustrated Jeff telephones for Gladys (Peggy Pharr Wilson,) his own translator.   Though the situation is somewhat far-fetched the cast plays it for its realism which produces several laughs, an ironic twist and an unexpected happy ending.

  Robert Zukerman is an aging artist in “Anything You Want” by Arlene Jaffe.  He has reluctantly agreed to meet with a graduate student (Sky Marie) for an interview, but upon her arrival after driving through a blizzard to his studio, she informs him that she has been assigned a project to take photos of a famous person.  There are occasional light moments while the connection between them becomes quiet and comfortable.  Both actors play for the sweetness of the relationship gently touching the laugh lines.

Cody (Sky Gallun) is a young man living with his parents in a retirement village that he calls “Geezer Acres” because he has nowhere else to go.  While sitting on a bench at a shuttle bus stop he is joined by Frances (Peggy Pharr Wilson,) a resident.  This is the premise of “Gimme Shelter” by Robert Weibezahl.  The two people spar as they look for and find common ground.  Gallun is likable in his surliness until he becomes almost child-like while Wilson’s disparaging attitude toward him mellows.  Their relationship subtly evolves from adversarial to complementary.

“Real Magic” by Brent Askari finds Carl (Matt Neely) being chastised during his inept magic act at a birthday party for Marie (Sky Marie) and Doug’s (Skyler Gallun) son.  He explains that he got a book on magic from Amazon and he just thought he’d give it a try.  When Tammy (Camille Upshaw,) a friend of the couple arrives, Carl is taken aback when he sees her.  The anger and rationalizations that come from the characters is broad and almost realistic given that the piece is comedic.

Tollak (Matt Neely) and Huberta (Camille Upshaw) are alone in a garden in the fanciful “The Moon Is Full Of It” by Jim Moss.  Tollak loves her, but she is not inclined to return the emotion.  He has a staff that, when he wields it, music is heard.  He offers her a deal. If he shows her how he can make music he’ll receive the kiss he’s been waiting for.   Upshaw and Neely are more than charming as they banter and manipulate.

The most melancholy piece of the program is Michael Brady’s “If I Go First.”  It takes place in a restaurant where a couple, Harry (Robert Zukerman) and Lizzy (Peggy Phar Wilson,) often visited.  She is in the fourth stage of cancer and is determined to go into a hospice residence so that he won’t have to take care of her.  He is unwilling to let her go. The two actors could have been melodramatic or mawkish, but Alan Paul’s direction keeps the conversation and emotions simple and heartfelt.  As they face the future there are very touching moments throughout the play.

Allie Casta’s “Piece of Cake” lends itself to sentimentality.  Maple (Camille Upshaw) has just opened the doors of her Piece of Cake Bakery for the first time and has yet to have a customer.  Maple’s somewhat simple-minded employee Flynn (Skyler Gannun) noshes on the goods which does not help to alleviate her frustration.  Due to a surprise visit the closing moments are poignant.  The actors work together well though Gannun’s characterization may have been too big.

Perhaps the most hilarious play is Deirdre Girard’s “The Haunting Package.”  Tom (Skyler Gannun) has reserved a hotel room for his and Bethany’s (Sky Marie) anniversary. Tom explains that this room is the only one in the hotel that is haunted. Suddenly it gets colder, a sure sign that there’s something supernatural going on.  The cast’s reactions as the events unfold are priceless.  Gannun and Marie are fittingly overly broad in their reactions to the eeriness and ridiculousness of their situation.

The final piece is the most intellectually humorous.  “All Aboard” by Michael Burgan takes place on a Metro-North train heading toward New Haven.  The lone passenger is Neal (Matt Neely) who is lectured by the conductor Meltner (Peggy Pharr Wilson) about the probability of diverse realities using quantum physics to support her arguments. It’s to the cast’s credit that they make the improbable seem possible.

Scenic designer Marcus Kearns utilizes a huge wall made of several random geometric shapes whose colors change with each play.  The furniture and props are kept to a minimum facilitating rapid scene changes so that the pace does not lag.  The lighting design by Lucas Pawleski complements the music and other sounds by Eric Shimelonis to create a smooth and fitting transition into each play.  Peggy Walsh’s costumes define the characters and have been designed for instantaneous backstage changes as some of the actors are in successive pieces.  

These ten plays are basically sketches, but they touch upon our sense of humanity and the importance of others in our lives.  There are laughs galore, but it is the ideas in the plays that inform us of our own lives.  If you want to be entertained and uplifted see 10X10!

Due to popular demand Barrington Stage has extended this year’s 10X10 New Play Festival through March 12.

For information and tickets call the box office at  413-236-8888 or the website –

The 12th Annual 10×10 New Play Festival runs February 16-March 12 at Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage in the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden Street in Pittsfield, MA: Playwrights: Stephen Kaplan (Right Field of Dreams) Diana Metzger (A Date) Arlene Jaffe ( Anything You Want) Robert Weilbezahl (Gimme Shelter) Brent Askari (Real Magic) Jim Moss (The Moon Is Full Of It ) Michael Brady (If I Go First) Allie Costa (Piece of Cake) Deirdre Girard (The Haunting Package) Michael Burgan (All Aboard);   Directors: Alan Paul and Matthew Penn; Cast: , Skyler Gallun, Sky Marie, Matt Neely, Camille Upshaw, Peggy Pharr Wilson, Robert Zukerman; Scenic Designer: Marcus Kearns; Costume Design: Peggy Walsh; Lighting Designer: Lucas Pawelski; Sound Designer: Eric Shimelonis; Production Stage Manager: Hope Rose Kelly; Assistant Stage Manager: Merit Glover.

Running time: 2 hours, one intermission; February 16-March 12, 2023;  

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